With all the unexpected challenges of this year, finding a co-op placement or internship was my way to “make lemonade out of lemons” and try to gain some more work experience before graduation.
In the Summer of 2020, I wanted to find a co-op after having a mostly cancelled study abroad semester due to COVID-19. I was initially planning to graduate after Fall 2020, but given how shaken up the job market looked, I decided to delay my graduation by squeezing in another co-op work term.
My seeking semester was an emotionally turbulent one. At times, I found myself feeling deflated when my co-op search wasn’t returning any interviews. Looking back now, I feel like it helped me become more resilient and learn to adapt to different approaches to job searching.
I was immensely fortunate when I landed a role with SAP’s Technology and Innovation team as a Product Strategy Intern. It’s been a great few month of learning and rewarding work. With the first four months finishing up, I hope to share some tips here for any seeking students who are looking for a co-op placement.
1. Stay Connected with Your Friends
Business students are undoubtedly a competitive bunch but when you’re looking for a co-op placement, but I think it’s important to lean on your friends for support. Naturally, sometimes they may be applying to the same postings that you are, but that is just how it works.
Regardless about how well things are going or how tough the seeking term is, it’s important to have friends to chat with and open up to. For me, I told my close friends how much I’ve been struggling during my seeking semester. What I found was that a lot of my friends were feeling the same way. They were having trouble getting interviews, starting to doubt their own abilities, and question their goals. But you always see your friends in a different light. You can offer them support, help remind them of what their strengths are, and how they are amazing candidates for a lot of jobs. Chances are, they have some incredible things to share about you as well, and it will help boost your confidence when you need it most. Often, having those friends to reassure you that things are going to be OK is all you need.
Also, your friends might know things that you don’t. Perhaps they know someone who is hiring for a role that fits your interests or knows about some great new jobs that just came out. I actually only applied to my current role at SAP because my good friend saw it in a job notification in his email. He thought it might be something that I’d consider and let me know about it. Without him, I wouldn’t have ever noticed this job posting.
2. Be Open Minded and Explore Different Options
At the start of my co-op seeking term, I was quite selective with the jobs I would apply for. Since my study focus and past experiences have mostly been around marketing and business analytics, I told myself that I must find something in that area. This meant I was filtering out a lot of jobs. Sometimes I would scroll past so many jobs and set them aside because they didn’t fit exactly the criteria that I had in mind.
After some time, I really thought about it. What exactly is tying me down to specifically marketing and business analytics jobs? Well, … Nothing really. I got about a year’s worth of internship experience and a couple courses to back it up, but nothing is really stopping me from exploring other types of jobs.
So, from there, I started applying for any job that just sounded interesting. If I could see myself in the role, I applied for it. I told myself, “It’s only going to be 4 or 8 months, and I’ll learn a lot, regardless of where I am.” I found that applying for a more diverse range of roles made the search process more exciting and made me feel a lot more confident that I would secure something.
3. Be Proactive and Submit Your Applications Early
This one is a big one. I feel like many students fall prey to the “Application deadline” or “closing date” that gets posted along with many jobs. I definitely did. I would often put off finishing my application for a later date, thinking that I have plenty of time to complete it. I would think,
“Oh, well there’s a lot of time for me to apply. After all, the job just came out."
But now I know, recruiters are always eager to look through the applicants whenever they have a chance. As soon as they can get a healthy list of qualified applicants, they might just take down the posting. Just because you applied before the application deadline doesn’t mean that your application will be read/considered.
For most of my seeking semester, I admittedly applied to jobs quite a while after they’ve been posted; maybe as late as a week or two after the jobs come out. However, I didn’t get a single interview. Moving toward the end of my seeking semester, I started applying for jobs as soon as I saw them posted. I often would apply the same day, just to be part of a recruiter’s “initial review” of the candidates that are coming in.
Sure enough, the jobs that I applied early for ended up scheduling an interview with me. Who knows, maybe my experience was just more relevant to the job but applying early certainly does not hurt. It only helps your chances of getting noticed.
4. Avoid Comparing Yourself to Others
You hear this one come up a lot, but I think it’s so important. My good friend said this once and it really stuck with me,
“When I make comparisons, I try to only compare with who I was yesterday”
People now love to share, and the problem really lies in how selective that sharing is. When you look on LinkedIn, it’s going to be an endless barrage of people sharing their new job, their next business idea, or how amazing things are in their professional life. What LinkedIn doesn’t really show is the grit and grind behind people’s achievements. I certainly found that it was increasingly hard to be on a platform like LinkedIn, at a time when I couldn’t seem to even land an interview.
I’m not saying that admiring others is bad. I think you can learn a lot from someone’s career path and use it to set goals for yourself. However, lamenting over your own experiences or lack of experiences relative to others is not healthy at all. It’s important to use LinkedIn to connect with others, take time to chat with them and learn from what they’ve done in their career. Without that, LinkedIn can easily be a place that makes you constantly think about how you may or may not measure up to others.
5. Keep Tabs on your Mental Wellbeing and Reach Out for Support
Above all, make sure that you’re OK. Of course, there’s going to be nights where emotions are high and you’re just incredibly frustrated with how things are going; you know that your thoughts are unproductive, but they still completely knock you down. While it’s normal to feel that way at times, it’s important to make sure it’s not becoming commonplace and recurring often.
Remember that you have people and resources that can help support you:
Co-op coordinators specifically have seen so many students go through your struggle in their seeking semesters and can offer a lot of guidance to you. Go to them for help on your resume/cover letter, job application strategy, or even just to chat. They can really help ease your mind when the seeking term is getting stressful.
SFU has resources like My SSP to provide a broader range of support, reaching beyond just academics and work/study.
Looking back now, I’m quite glad that I had these experiences through my co-op seeking semester. It’s helped demystify the job seeking process, helped me learn how to improve myself, and showed me how to learn from job rejections. Over time, you’ll definitely get a feel for what works and what doesn’t in your co-op search. I hope that some of these tips from my seeking semester will help you get through yours.
All the best in your seeking semester. I’m sure you’ll do great.
Beyond the Blog
Check out the Co-operative Education website to join the Co-op Program!