From Co-op to Career: Five Tips for Co-op and Intern Students on their Way to Graduation
Co-op students and Interns have probably heard the spiel dozens of times: real workplace experience obtained in a placement will help to jump start their job search after graduation, and help with the transition from full-time student to full-time employee. The trouble is, students aren’t always given the how and why. Of course a work placement can be extremely beneficial and lead to future opportunities – but only if students apply themselves and put in a special effort. Here are five tips on how to maximize your co-op experience.
Companies and Employers that work with college and university co-op departments will often see dozens of students come through their office every semester. Depending on their program of study, their school and their differing experiences, each student will have unique skillsets to bring to the table. But what can really set you apart from the rest is something that isn’t often taught in classrooms – enthusiasm and drive. Believe it or not, your employer will often care much more about your disposition while approaching a task than about your proficiency in accomplishing it. Even if you make mistakes, showing enthusiasm to learn something new and taking criticism with grace is key. Nine times out of ten, an employer will see more value in an inexperienced student with a positive attitude than in a student that efficiently performs a task while grumbling the whole time.
2. Making Connections Isn’t Enough
Here’s a buzzword you’ve probably heard over, and over, and over: Networking. Yes, networking can be an incredibly valuable activity, but only if you really use it to your advantage. Making connections isn’t enough – you actually need to maintain them. Shaking hands and collecting business cards is all well and good, but if you don’t reach out from time to time, you can’t expect to able to ask any favors in the future. So, whether you add someone on LinkedIn or to your email contacts, make sure you go the extra mile to foster meaningful engagement.
3. Show off your work
As your work term nears its end, there are probably tons of projects and tasks that you’ve accomplished in your role. Why not show them off? You’ve taken on a new position and learned lots of new skills – you’ve earned some bragging rights. Not only that, but if you don’t document your work, a few weeks after your work term, you’re not going to remember every single project you’ve accomplished. Whether you post projects that you’ve completed on your LinkedIn profile, add them to your resume or talk about them at your next job interview, don’t be afraid to go into detail about the projects you were apart of and all the different ways you contributed.
Everyone has days at work where there are challenges that need to be met. Whether it’s a tight deadline, an obstacle that needs to be overcome, or a co-worker with a bad attitude, there will be days where your patience is tested. The key is not to let these challenges take over your attitude. Just because you had a stressful day doesn’t mean the position isn’t right for you, or that your work term experience isn’t valuable. Being able to view potentially negative experiences as opportunities to learn will be key to your success in a new role, and will show your employer how dedicated and driven you remain despite setbacks.
5. Say yes to new opportunities
Sometimes it can be tempting to decline an invitation to try something new, especially when you have lots on your plate, or an important deadline looming over your head. However, as important as your tasks are, remember that you should be trying to get as much as you possibly can out of your co-op experience. You never know whom you’re going to meet at an event, or what new skills you might be able to learn from a new project. Whether it’s a public event like a conference or a job fair, a new project, or the chance to attend a meeting, make sure you see it as an opportunity to grow rather than extra task added to your plate.