Completing three consecutive Co-op terms at two different companies was not in my initial plans but when the opportunity arose to gain experience in two new work settings, it was too good an opportunity to pass up. After my inaugural four-month work term in Fall 2021 had finished, I was feeling what you could call an “educational withdrawal.” I had learned a great deal during my term, but I was missing the school and social experience. During my brief break between terms, I decided that I would make a few changes to stay engaged during my next eight-month work term to make the experience even better. Here are three changes that I made to my routine, mindset, and actions that have helped my second Co-op term continue to be engaging and enjoyable.
In my first term, I was tasked with completing many new and exciting lab tasks. I completed each task diligently and with care. But as the semester came to a close, I realized that I had missed a large learning opportunity by not asking more questions about why each task was being done and how they were significant. To change this in my current Co-op, I have been making an extra effort to inquire about each of my duties and how they are important to the work we are doing. To name an example, working in research this term, I have been involved in the informed consent process and have had to review many documents and policies regarding research ethics. To make this learning opportunity greater, I had discussions with my supervisors about why these policies are significant to our work and how we implement them every day. Asking more questions about my work has led to many educational discussions with not only other research staff but with physicians and nurses, which has given me a very well-rounded educational journey and helped cure the “educational withdrawal” I had been feeling.
Implement Open and Honest Communication
Understandably, I had always been nervous about discussing my performance and reviews with my supervisors, so I avoided an in-depth discussion of this during my first Co-op term. But beginning the next, I felt that I knew little about how I had performed and what I needed to work on. I went into my second Co-op term eager to have an open line of honest communication with my supervisors about my work and what was needed of me. In my first few weeks, I scheduled a meeting with my supervisor to discuss my learning goals and how they could help me meet them. This meeting was extremely beneficial, and my supervisor, three months later, still works to help me meet those goals. I have also been asking if my work is up to par or needs improvement so that I can continue to work well with the team. I have now scheduled a meeting with two different supervisors to discuss how they feel my term has gone, and changes that need to be made heading into the next four months that I will spend there. Instead of being nervous when completing tasks, I now feel confident in my work and I also know that if something isn’t going so well, my supervisors and I feel comfortable discussing it with one another.
Make Connections and be a Team Member
I have always been challenged by communicating and making meaningful connections with other staff members. Though I am an open and sociable person, I tend to start off on the nervous side and that impairs my connection-making skills. After spending the Fall term in a very small company with limited friendships and communication between staff, I had hoped that my move to a large team would encourage me to put myself out there and enjoy working as a team. I have been taking every opportunity to connect with my co-workers and other hospital staff and it has most definitely paid off. I have focused on being present and active in group conversations, as well as asking a variety of staff questions about their work and how our duties overlap. I’ve found that making friends and being comfortable in the workplace has led to fewer mistakes as I feel confident in expressing concerns and questions, making my experience more enjoyable. This term has felt a lot less like work and more like a learning opportunity.
Though I thoroughly enjoyed both of my Co-op placements thus far, I have found that implementing these small changes to my routine and actions has made a large impact on my engagement and enjoyment of my term. For anybody going into their first term—or even their second or third—I would highly recommend you implement these actions from the beginning to ensure that you make the most of your placement. Don’t let fear or nervousness stop you from asking questions, communicating with your supervisors, or connecting with your team members!