Lara-Sophie Boleslawsky, English Honours
Arts Co-op Placement at the Vancouver Arts Colloquium Society
1) Can you tell us about your current position?
I currently work for a local non-profit organization called the Vancouver Arts Colloquium Society (VACS). The organization brings local artists and community members together to engage in open-minded dialogue about art, politics, current events and community engagement.
This year, VACS launched an initiative called SkillShare which allows locals in Kerrisdale and Kitsilano to attend free monthly workshops hosted by local artists and craftsmen. Since its inception in early May 2016, VACS now offers workshops such as Classical Singing 101, Creative Musqueam Weaving, Permaculture in Action, and Upcycling through Sewing. Hopefully, as SkillShare gains traction, VACS will be able to feature even more of these types of workshops throughout the lower mainland.
As the Executive Assistant for VACS, I am in charge of organizing team meeting dates and their respective agendas, communicating openly with the local artists for recruitment and feedback for ongoing workshops, managing and maintaining the VACS website and most recently, working to develop an online magazine for VACS and acting as editor-in-chief of its monthly content.
One thing to keep in mind about working with a non-profit is that most of the time the job description you were given in the beginning of your Co-op work term will morph and change depending on the needs of the organization. VACS is government funded, however we are still understaffed and as a result, you need to be flexible in the tasks that you are willing to take on. I, for example have gone from interviewing an artist, to picking up easels from Kits House and rushing to help set up for an event within a few hours. That being said, this is one aspect of the job that I enjoy, as it pushes you to step up and learn new things and you are never EVER bored.
2) How has your Arts degree prepared you for this position? Have there been any links between your coursework (or extracurricular activities) at UBC and the work you are doing at VACS?
What I love about Arts at UBC is the way creativity factors into your learning. Coming from an English Lit background at UBC has supported me in numerous ways. Literature, and art in general, I find gives you the ability to look at the world from many different perspectives. Your ability to reflect and think critically can help you to approach a solution from many different angles. The world is not black and white. Neither should be your approach to life.
Working at VACS is extremely exciting because of the diverse people I have had the opportunity to meet. Many of the artists participating at our SkillShare workshops are eager to sit down and chat, either professionally (for the benefits of an informational interview) or colloquially, to discuss local news or even just the weather. One of my favorite conversations has been with local author Lilia D’Acres, comparing her time as a Literature student at UBC with mine. I’ve especially valued the time to speak with these creative minds, as it’s something I’m not exposed to a lot in the classroom setting at UBC. However, seeing the potential of my Arts Degree in the creative field is quite interesting and reassuring.
3) Have your experiences in the Arts Co-op program changed the way you think about your post-undergraduate career plans?
The Arts Co-op program is a superb way to dip your toes in the vast waters of post-undergraduate careers. Before entering the program, the dreaded thought of: What are you going to do after your undergrad? was on a constant loop inside my head. The number one thing the Arts Co-op program has instilled in me is confidence. I am confident in what UBC has taught me and I know how to sell myself as an Arts student. What many people underestimate is the power of critical, creative and analytical thought, and just how applicable it is in today’s work place. Many people don’t have that ability to look at a situation and think: “This is good, how can I make it better?” Knowing this and being able to really capitalize on my creativity has given me an immense sense of pride in being a UBC Arts student.
4) What are the top 3 tips you have for landing your first Co-op job?
- Be passionate – whether this is through researching a company’s mandates/ethics or just displaying a general interest in what the position has to offer.
- Actively search for feedback – whether this is through the Co-op office or your peers, a lot of the time you are unaware of how much room you have to grow. If something feels easy to you, chances are you can do better. It’s through facing challenges that you find out more about yourself as a person! Also, lots of employers value the fact that you are open to receiving feedback and are eager to learn.
- Don’t procrastinate – this is really difficult and I myself have fallen victim to its tantalizing allure! But time management and good organizational skills are two things that many employers value. Good job applications and interview preparation takes time. It’s not something that should be crammed in 30 minutes before the deadline! Again, the Co-op office is a great resource for you if you need help setting aside time for drafting job applications. My advice is to schedule a few hours a week and treat it like a course (for example, every Tuesday and Thursday 10-11am is set aside exclusively for co-op work!
Interested in learning more about Arts Co-op? The Arts Co-op Program allows you to explore your career options while gaining 12 months of paid, professional work experience, a network of contacts, and valuable job search skills. Open to second and third-year students, the application deadline is September 26, 2016. Information sessions are available September 15, 19 and 21.