Co-operative Education can be an excellent way of enriching your academic experience and narrowing down your potential career options. Employers increasingly cite real-life or internship experience as one of the most desirable qualities in applicants. With that in mind, here are four essential tips for getting the most out of your co-op experience:
Set personal and career goals, objectives, and expectations
In the beginning of your work term, discuss your goals, responsibilities and expectations with your employer(s). Ask any questions you have about the organization and your position. This can prevent some major obstacles or misunderstandings down the road. Make sure any goals you set are SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely) and relevant to your long-term professional goals. List the traits that you would like to see in your ideal co-op position. What do you hope to get out of the experience?
Show initiative, drive, and commitment
There are various ways you can demonstrate your motivation and enthusiasm to your supervisor(s) and coworkers. Regularly ask questions, volunteer to take on interesting projects, and set regular meetings with your supervisor(s). You may not always get to do the most interesting tasks, so accept any “grunt work” without complaint, showing you’re willing to do your best no matter the situation. Regularly attend informal or social events to maintain good relationships and network with people in the organization.
Track your accomplishments
After your work term is over, you’ll want to be able to reflect on what you got out of your co-op experience. This will not only enrich your co-op experience, but it will also help you clearly articulate your skills and qualifications in future job or volunteer interviews. Throughout your work term, maintain a journal or portfolio to record details of any projects, lessons, and achievements you have had as a co-op student. Also, consider using tools that will help keep track of your accomplishments like www.idonethis.com.
Use multiple resources to stay informed about future internship opportunities
Make regular visits to Symplicity to stay in the loop about on-going and future co-op postings. Also remember that many job and co-op openings are never posted, so network with colleagues, professors, friends, and family to identify these hidden opportunities. Career Fairs and departmental student unions and groups are excellent means of networking with others. Social networking sites like LinkedIn are also recommended. Take the initiative to conduct informational interviews with key people who may refer you to interesting opportunities. Visit SFU Career Services or attend career workshops to learn about networking and conducting informational interviews.
Eric is a returning Career Peer Educator and Career Peer Coach with SFU Career Services. He is studying toward his Honours Bachelor’s degree in Molecular Biology & Biochemistry (MBB) and Statistics. In his spare time, he enjoys hiking, juggling, and drawing.