During the hiring process of my first ever Co-op position as a Content Designer at Fraser Health, when I was asked by my employer about whether or not I would consider an 8 month Co-op placement, I was very hesitant to answer because I had no idea if I would even make it through the 4 month placement. I didn't know what to expect, I was anxious to be in a new environment, and because I had no guidance about how longer placements worked, I chose the "safer" 4 month option. Luckily, I was offered a 4 month extension during the 3rd month of my placement, which would allow me to dive deeper into my work and my create stronger connections with my colleagues. So here are 8 reasons why you should pursue an 8 month Co-op placement.
As you are progressing through your 8 month co-op placement, you will have a number of opportunities to meet new people and form new connections. These connections can help expand your network, whether it be for acting as a reference in the future or frequenting your work opportunities in the industry. I was quite lucky to have a supervisor that took my under his wing as a mentee, and this meant that I would be able to ask for his advice or reference whenever I needed. As the saying goes; “Your network is your net worth”.
2. Higher Chance of Working With the Company After Graduation
After gaining experience in the company for so long, and as long as you did a good job while doing so, they will be more likely to have you work with them after you graduate. They now know your style of work, and you know theirs. There is now an automatically formed bond of trust which helps both parties lean towards each other, which in return helps with the work efficiency and future work opportunities. Keeping in touch with your employers/supervisors through LinkedIn or other platforms after completing your placement is crucial, especially if you want to go back to work for them after graduating.
3. More Experience Under One Project (If the Work Is Project Based)
If your job is project based, like mine was, there is a higher chance that you have an in-depth knowledge of the intricate details of the project than if you only worked on it for 4 months. This builds up the chain of what is known as the Employee Experience Journey. You do your best in the project and learn everything you can about it, and now you have more time and resources to succeed in achieving the end goal rather than being in a time-crunch of 4 months.
4. Getting Used to How the Industry Operates
You would understand how the industry you work in operates in 4 months, but like the project point above, you would have a better idea because you had more experience in the field. You could do that with a 4 month co-op placement elsewhere too, but having the momentum of continuing in a setting you are familiar with isn’t the same as starting off in a new company with new rules.
5. More Time to Improve Your Work and Receive More Detailed and Substantial Feedback
This point is very important to me because I made the most progress in the last 3 months of my 8-month Co-op placement thanks to the extra time I had. (Note: I had initially signed a contract to a placement of 4 months, but it was later extended to 8 months). In the first 4 months of my placement, I started my job like I hit the ground running. There was way too much information to grasp in the first month, whether it was learning the software they used or getting used to common abbreviations used within the workplace, getting used to that was a steep learning curve. The next 3 months were crucial for me to act like a sponge and absorb as much relevant information as I could, so that was the time where I started taking notes more frequently. The feedback from my supervisor was important because it helped me improve my work and take a step back to look at the bigger picture. Once I found out that my 4 month extension had been processed, I was relieved because I didn’t want to miss out on more extensive feedback sessions that can help improve my work over a longer period of time (spoiler: it helped a lot!).
6. More Time for Side Projects
As you may already know, being a student has its downsides, one of them being not having enough time to work on side-projects that do not include school work. Being a design student, your course load is based mostly on projects, and so sparing the time to do some projects on the side to improve your portfolio can be challenging. This is where the 8-month Co-op placement comes to the rescue. You have 8 long months to start and finish multiple side-projects. The reason is because work stays at work, so you have plenty time after a workday to focus on improving your side-projects rather than having to worry about assignments.
7. Creating a Routine and Being More Productive
The work hours and days are usually pre-determined in a Co-op placement, unlike a regular school term where there can be essays and quizzes every other week which can disrupt an ongoing routine. This helped me understand and experience what an organized work life looks like in the longer term.
8. Looks Great on Your Resume
Once you have completed an 8 month co-op term and slap it onto your resume, your future employers are going to be impressed with the commitment and prolonged experience that you have earned with one company. This will give them an idea that you are committed and ready to take on long-term projects or tasks. For example, at Fraser Health, we worked on a long-term project to transfer dozens of medical modules to non-Flash components because Flash was being discontinued at the end of the year. This allowed me to discover new aspects of the software which made me more confident in using it.
BONUS! 9. If You Are Not Working Remotely and Going to Work, There Is Plenty of Time Spent in Transit or Driving to and Back From Your Workplace
I find that I come across the most absurd ideas (in a good way) as I tend to listen to a lot of podcasts (such as Tim Ferriss) and audiobooks (such as David Goggins' Can't Hurt Me) that act as a key to open the door to the creativity room in my brain. That can branch out to being potential project ideas and concepts that are beneficial to keep in mind to use at the workplace or for a portfolio piece. Some of the content I listen to even leads me to questioning my life and going through a mild existential crisis (just kidding… not).
Overall, if you get the opportunity to secure an 8 month Co-op, do it. I couldn't recommend it highly enough, and I believe that it will significantly change your perspective on a realistic post-grad job; whether it be learning more, creating stronger connections over time, and receiving extensive feedback from your employer that doesn't feel rushed like it would on a 4 month placement.