Victoria-based Abebooks.com, the world's largest online marketplace for new, used, rare and out-of-print books, has found a winning formula in the search for high-quality, dedicated employees: the UVic Co-op Program.


The company, which connects book-buyers with thousands of booksellers via its network of five websites, has found success hiring several former Co-op students as full-time, permanent employees. One of these former students is Jennifer Thorimbert, an English graduate who first worked for Abebooks.com in the spring of 2003, and returned to the company in 2004 full-time.



"It's such a young, fun company, and my experiences as a Co-op student really stood out in my mind, even after I had completed other Co-op terms," says Thorimbert, who is currently a communications specialist for the company. "I originally came to Abebooks with no workplace-based writing experience, but they completely trusted that I would do a good job – I was immediately granted respect and authority, and that meant a lot to me. I knew I wanted that kind of environment for my long term career."



After completing her work term at Abebooks.com, Thorimbert found terms at Government House and BC Ferries. She remained in touch with Abebooks, however, and when she heard that one of her former colleagues was leaving the company to pursue her Masters degree, she seized the opportunity to inquire about stepping into that position.



"Jennifer approached me and let me know she was interested in returning to Abebooks," says David Arrowsmith, Manager of Security and Trust and Thorimbert's former supervisor. "She had proven to be a committed and capable employee as a Co-op student, and she already had knowledge of how the business worked and what was expected of a person in a communications position. It was an ideal situation."



Even though Thorimbert was still a term away from completing her undergraduate degree, she knew that this was an amazing opportunity. She managed to convince Arrowsmith that she could pull off 35 hours a week at Abebooks.com while taking classes at UVic, and soon she was back at work. Her first four months upon returning to the company counted as her fourth and final Co-op work term, and she stayed on with the company after that.



As a communications specialist for the company's Knowledge Management group, Thorimbert currently maintains the company's intranet, updates policy procedures and guidelines, and writes email templates for the customer support team. She also writes, edits and reviews marketing materials and online help files. "All the skills I learned in my academic courses have been transferable," she says. "But more importantly, the Co-op Program prepared me to look toward the future. I spoke at the Uvic Career Forum in October and that was my focus: Participate in Co-op. It gives you a chance to get yourself out there before you're done school so that you have a strong resume. When you take it seriously, you get something in return."



Arrowsmith is equally supportive of the Co-op process, having worked alongside many students since joining Abebooks.com. "I have personally supervised two Co-op students and have worked with several more during my three and a half years with Abebooks," he says. "Co-op students are an important part of this Victoria success story. We've had students working as developers, as technical writers, as business analysts, as financial assistants, and in many other roles. For Abebooks, it's something that works very well."



A particular benefit of the Co-op program, according to Arrowsmith, is the dialogue it encourages between students and employers. "My advice to Co-op students is to research the organization you hope to work for, so that you are able to articulate what you can bring to the table, as well as what you hope to gain from the experience," he says. "Knowing what you want to achieve, and communicating your goals to your employer will open more doors in the future." Thorimbert is certainly living proof that this is good advice.