If you had spoken to me eight years ago, I would have confidently told you that I was going to be a commercial airline pilot. I had it planned out, from what school I was going to attend to the airline I wanted to work for. I felt lucky to know what I wanted to do because so many other students were about to embark on their post-secondary journeys without the same level of confidence.

Unfortunately for me, that confidence came to an end around the time university applications were due. I ended up applying to seven schools – three for aviation, and four for business. I was accepted to the Business Management program at TRSM, and before I knew it, was at Pitman Hall residence not feeling any more confident than I did months earlier.

Business is a grey zone. When you go to school to be a nurse, you typically know what you’re going to be – a nurse. Sure, there are specializations and different areas of nursing, but you’re still going to be a nurse. A Bachelor of Commerce (BComm) is far from clear-cut – the opportunities available to you are virtually limitless, which is both freeing and terrifying all at the same time. I felt the latter of the two in my first year. I knew that I wanted to major in Marketing, but the only job title I knew was Marketing Manager. Of course, all of this uncertainty was compounded by the normal worries you have when you pick up and move to a new school in a new city with new people and new classes.

I was fortunate that the exact year I was eligible to apply, the Marketing program at TRSM introduced a Co-op option. My mother was a Co-op teacher at my high school, so I was familiar with the benefits: a chance to learn new skills and build my resume, a paid position to help with the cost of living in Toronto, and most importantly, the ability to try different roles before settling into a career.

My hopes were not high going in with my application – I only had a few items on my resume, mostly at restaurants and in retail. Then there was the video interview, which I would hazard to say was the most awkward and uncomfortable thing I’ve ever done. To top it all off, we were told that only seven students were being accepted to the pilot program. For reference, the Marketing major has the most students of any major at Ryerson; not just at TRSM, but the entire university. Then I got the email that, as cliché as it may sound, changed my life – I was in!

I’ve had three Co-op placements so far: two terms at the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) working in the Community Relations department as a Community Relations Officer Assistant, and one term as a Business Development Project Coordinator with the law firm, Fasken. The role with the TTC was not traditional marketing in any sense, but with my interest in transit and urban planning, it was a natural fit. I was able to do so much more than just my “day job.” My motto was “ask for more and say yes to everything,” and with that, I was able to do a variety of things, from working an Open House for the new subway extension, to helping the Communications department with video advertisements (check out my acting debut in the Rogers Cup promo video).

For my last work term however, my dream of working in aviation industry came full circle when I received an offer to work with Air Canada’s Loyalty and E-Commerce department. While it is only a temporary position, I couldn’t imagine a better way to polish off my academic career and to launch the career in aviation that I’ve always dreamed of.

While I didn’t find the Air Canada opportunity through the Co-op department, the level of support and the opportunities granted to me by Co-op prepared me for the role. There are the countless examples of how the Co-op team goes above and beyond. For example, the Business Career Hub launched a series of Boot Camps to train students on the most in-demand skills from employers, all inspired by the content of our Co-op reports. If you want to work at a specific company or in a specific role, the office will work to build the relationships necessary.

The Ted Rogers Co-op Program also just launched the Peer Mentorship Program to provide first year Co-op students with a support system of senior Co-op students. I joined the pilot program as a General Mentor and am proud to be a part of the program again this year. And if all of that wasn’t enough to convince you, I once received a call from my Program Coordinator just to comment on how much they enjoyed my Work Term Report, and to talk through the constructive feedback given by my employer. These are all examples of the TRSM difference, and some of the many reasons that I’m proud to be a TRSM Co-op student.

I am now able to graduate with a wealth of experience in a variety of industries, companies and roles that likely wouldn’t have been available to me without Co-op. More than that, I can now leave university with the confidence I lacked entering it. If you’re reading this and feeling similar to the way I did in my first year, I’d highly recommend looking into Co-op – you won’t regret it. This has been a journey of hard work and some hard times, but this next chapter of working my dream job confirms to me that I made the right choice by applying to the Ted Rogers Co-op program.

Posted by Austin Jones

Austin is a 5th year Co-op student working toward a Marketing major and Professional Communications minor. He is active in the TRSM community, previously working with the Ryerson Marketing Association as an Events Associate and Chair of the 2018 Ryerson Marketing Conference. He now works with the Ted Rogers Pride Alliance as VP Marketing and with the Peer Mentorship Program as a General Mentor. Outside of the walls of Ryerson, Austin works with the LGBTQ+ non-profit, Start Proud, as VP Marketing.