The weather’s getting warmer, and with that comes the end of another Winter co-op term. As quickly as it started, it comes to an end, and my third co-op term is complete. How did goal setting impact my decisions? What did I learn by working on a new initiative? And how was I able to ensure a smooth transition?
In April, I kept pace right to the end of an amazing term. I used my early goal-setting to guide which projects I took and how I spent my time. I got to work on a new initiative for the firm and learned a lot from it. Finally, I took advantage of the opportunity to manage my transition in a new way than before. Let’s see how it all played out!
For those with a good memory, you might remember I’ve hinted toward a list of goals in previous blogs. I make a list for each co-op term and revisit it regularly as the weeks go by. It’s a thoughtful and intentional process before the term starts, and an active process to reward or course correct during the term.
But today, I’d like to take you through the last step: meaningful reflection and solidification of what I’ve achieved. This term, my goals ranged from “Be a better storyteller” to “40 coffee chats”, and from “Grow quant skills” to “Engage with leadership 4 times”. Some of these were more measurable than others. For example, I could easily take a count over the term and make sure I was tracking well towards the 40 coffee chats, so in the end, it was trivial to say I met this goal.
Others are more abstract and definitely subject to changing goalposts. Being a better storyteller can mean a lot of things, but as I spoke about last month, I got to present to a new audience and in a new format this term. I also mentioned in my first month how I worked to understand and build my skills in executive communication. I think these experiences among others support making me a better storyteller, and I can confidently say I feel much stronger here than when I started the term.
But the real reason I set goals is to have a north star to guide my decision-making and spending of social/reputational capital (if you’re not familiar with the concept, maybe that can be a blog post for another day). My goal to engage with leadership 4 times wasn’t natural to my role. To find opportunities for this, I had to say “yes” to projects beyond what was expected of me, while also turning down ones which didn’t support this or another goal.
I also had to bank on some of my good favour and strong relationships to ask for and open opportunities to engage with leadership. Whether it was pushing to be included on a call or thread, or pivoting my work towards something with more leadership visibility, having a clear goal let me know where it made sense to push harder for something, and where I should save my capital.
Good goals guide you in making these decisions, and without a clear set of goals, it’s very easy to end a term having achieved a lot for the organization, maybe even gained great recognition for it, but without achieving what you personally needed most.
CSOs (pronounced See-Sos), or Chief Strategy Officers are key members of an organization’s C-Suite and are responsible for setting and delivering on the strategic objectives of an organization. Sometimes this role is held by the CEO themselves or passed to an (S)VP of Strategy.
One of my favourite experiences of the term was getting to put together an event for this audience. In this process, I got to meet outstanding people, and gain hands-on experience with a new team, learning their methods and norms.
This new initiative was driven by a team in a completely different area of the firm. As a result, I was able to learn from the moment I was brought on – everything from PowerPoint tricks to market-leading tactics for building competitive advantage through innovation. I also got to meet new leaders and get real face-time with our Director and National Practice Lead.
I had a lot of fun on this team, and getting to work on an impactful, external initiative made it all the more enjoyable!
Each co-op term comes with unique opportunities. For both my past terms, my role was passed on to another co-op, who would start 2+ weeks after me. As a result, my transition would mostly come in the form of some offline documentation and notes. Usually, I’d try to organize my work, and lay out clear instructions to pick up on anything I hadn’t completed. This time, however, was quite different.
Near the end of this co-op term, I learned that my responsibilities would be passed onto a full-time member of the team, someone who had recently been onboarded to the project. This was definitely an exciting opportunity and something new for me. It also reaffirmed the importance and centrality of my work. It wouldn’t have made sense for there to be a gap for 2+ weeks, or for my role to be given to another co-op anyways. To me, this goes to show that the areas of work I carved out and become responsible for were quite meaningful.
Transitioning the new PM Analyst into this role was a pleasure! Getting to share knowledge actively and with a live person was leaps and bounds better than writing one way into a document. I got to see them grow confidence quickly, and I was able to share transparent perspectives on the role and its complexities and nuances that I’m sure benefited a smooth transition. I kept thinking back to my first week and focused on giving them everything they needed to succeed – everything I wish I had gotten.
I’m glad I got to own this transition, and I genuinely enjoyed bringing someone new into my world over the course of my last week. It’s definitely a shortcoming of the co-op format that this isn’t enabled to happen more often, because I think a smooth and human transition is definitely worth it!