This summer, I am the Corporate Communications Intern at Co-op Solutions (www.coop.org). I always hoped to start my communications career by gaining experience on a positive team that provides many opportunities. During the interview process I was asked what I wanted out of the internship, in addition to what I would be providing for them. I appreciated that they valued my wants and needs as much as their own. Co-op is also one of the few programs providing experiences with both internal and external communication, making it the perfect fit for me since I had not been sure which area I was interested in more. I knew choosing Co-op was going to give me the well-rounded experience I was looking for.
Co-op’s intern program has granted me a hands-on experience with a fantastic communication team. I have worked on communication projects and strategies that have taught me the ins and outs of a corporate communications team. My projects are with both internal and external communication teams, allowing me to see how their work overlaps.
In my time with Co-op, I have had the opportunity to work on internal articles, social media research, a press release and a weekly “Intern Perspective” as part of media reporting to management. I have improved my writing and editing skills by working on internal articles and keeping Co-op employees informed on important internal news and updates. I learned a lot about the credit union and fintech industries while studying industry trends, and researching top influencers for Co-op’s personnel to follow on Twitter and LinkedIn. Working on employee intranet stories improved my informational writing skills while being able to share industry news and report on how Co-op products and services are providing benefits to its clients. In my weekly Intern Perspective piece, I would report on news within the credit union movement to share with employees, which has further helped me navigate the industry. Each project also brought its own challenge, allowing me to apply and progress my communication skills as I worked through them.
On top of completing projects, I have been included as a team member in weekly content planning and touch base meetings. I love being able to participate in everything my team is doing. Whenever I have a question, concern, or issue, they never hesitate to lend a hand. The intern supervisors at Co-op also provide us with beneficial activities, such as resume building, benefits 101 and interview tips, encouraging us to get to know one another and prepare us for our futures. It has been so fun getting to know everyone.
Coming into this internship, I knew very little about the credit union and fintech industries. At first, it seemed overwhelming. As a recent college graduate with no background in the financial industry, just joining the workforce, it was a lot to take in and a little intimidating. My team went above and beyond to make me feel comfortable and answer my questions.
My manager also set up meetings for me to meet several people within Co-op’s CMX team (Communications/Marketing/Experience). This gave me a chance to ask any questions I had, and there were many. In those first two weeks, I learned so much about credit unions and how different teams’ cross paths in their work. Almost every person I met said “don’t worry about learning it all in one day because you never stop learning in this industry.” And there are so many opportunities for learning and growth. Many employees mentioned they have come across the friendliest workers in this industry here at Co-op, some even left and chose to come back because they missed being a part of such a superb work environment.
In addition to learning how Co-op works, I also learned a lot about the credit union industry. One thing I value about the industry is the focus on members. Too often industries focus on profit, but credit unions focus on their members, as they are member-owned. This makes them unique and allows member needs to be met through the products credit unions offer. Learning how member-owned cooperatives function was very interesting. I believe being member-owned contributes to the company environment and success of credit unions.
The biggest impression the credit union industry left on me is “people helping people.” I witnessed it for the first time while writing a press release about Guadalupe Credit Union expanding their relationship with Co-op. Tonya Romero, SVP/COO of Guadalupe Credit Union, said “We are dedicated to delivering responsible, affordable financial services to help low-income, low-wealth and other underserved communities.” This is just one example of the credit union industry’s dedication to serving communities lacking access to financial services. Not only is the theme of “people helping people” present externally between credit unions and their members, but it exists internally – within organizations – as well. Every person I encounter is genuine and wants to help me succeed. To me and many others recently graduating or joining the workforce, working for a company that values its employees is extremely important. The positive professional development experience I am receiving at Co-op and in the credit union industry has set high expectations for the next step in my journey.
Over the last 12 weeks at Co-op Solutions, I have gained more experience and knowledge in a brief time than I thought possible. Choosing Co-op and the credit union industry as a first step in my career is the best decision I could have made. I am making great connections, working on valuable projects, and leaving behind contributions my team will be able to use moving forward. Co-op’s intern program truly focused on what would benefit me, expand my skills and push me out of my comfort zone. Co-op has been beyond welcoming and encouraging, making this internship better than I could have ever imagined.