From Halifax to Canada’s capital

Celina Lam

Government was never on my list of “possible future careers”. It didn’t cross my mind that I could one day work in public service. When I was offered my first co-op with the federal government in Ottawa, little did I know it would reward me with the experience of a lifetime, both as an individual and as a communicator.

Upon entering the branch, tall grey cubicles surrounded me. Endless whispers, giggles and the aroma of fresh brewed coffee filled the room, making its way through every crack in the wall.  “So this is it,” I told myself.

On my first day, I was welcomed with warm smiles and welcoming handshakes. I was introduced to my fellow colleagues and brought to a little square cube that I would call home for the next four months. What struck me was that I wasn’t an intern. At work, I was not a student but rather, I was an equal employee and an important member of the team.

During my four months at Fisheries and Oceans Canada, I had the opportunity to work on many meaningful initiatives. I learned from the best in the region, worked with a passionate team and built an understanding of the government and what it means to work for our country. My work was not just for the department, but also for the betterment of fellow Canadians. I had the opportunity to represent the department in planning National Public Service Week, a yearly event to celebrate the hard work of public servants. I had the chance to work on the Blueprint 2020 campaign– a national campaign focused on re-evaluating the public service. Moreover, my co-op allowed me to meet and work with the Deputy Commissioner and Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada.  It was truly amazing to know that what I was doing was making a positive impact on the rest of Canada.

Working from Canada’s capital city, I had the chance to see how the federal government worked, build my skills as a communicator, and create products that were used nationwide. The government taught me the value of precision, process and most importantly, developing a clear defined message. I learned to adapt my writing to specific audiences and gained insight on how to shape and create messages effectively.

As my placement ended in August, it was bittersweet. I will take the relationships I have built, the network I have made and the experience I have gained with me into the future. The job of which I was once uncertain became a part of my life. Government became the place where I had the chance to make an impact and serve the country I call home.  My time with the government gave me the freedom to learn, produce and make mistakes. The government is a great stepping-stone into public relations. I strongly recommend those that are hesitant to consider the public service. It has built me to be not only a stronger writer, but also a better communicator.