You’ve done the preparation and now the time has come … (drumroll please!) … it’s time to seek for a co-op job! Before rolling up those metaphoric (or actual) sleeves and getting to it, there are some things to keep in mind. For one, co-op is competitive. It actually took me three semesters of job seeking before I landed my first co-op position. Now, don’t panic! My intent is not to scare or discourage you. In fact, I wish to do the opposite. Below, are 5 tips to help keep you on track, motivated and increase your competitiveness throughout your co-op job search.
1. Co-op as a Course
Putting together resumes, cover letters, submitting applications, preparing for and attending interviews all take time. What I recommend, and what you will hear echoed by your co-op coordinators, is to treat co-op as if you are taking another course. Plan out your days accordingly. Set aside time everyday to look through job postings in myExperience and to put together job applications. The most important thing is to find an amount of time to spend on applications that works with your schedule and to stick with it. Specific co-op programs may have different processes and recommendations for the number of jobs to apply for, so it’s best to check with your co-op program. Generally, it’s safe to say that you should be applying for at least one co-op job each week—that’s approximately 15-30 jobs throughout the course of the semester.
Would you enjoy being addressed as “To Whom It May Concern”? Well, neither would an employer. Remember to read job descriptions thoroughly and to write cover letters specifically tailored to each position being applied for. The same goes for your resume, adjust it according to the job you are applying for. When seeking a co-op position, as I read through job descriptions, I would print out the ones I planned to apply for and make notes right on the page, highlighting specific skills and other items that I felt were important. I would then use these notes when I wrote my cover letter and fine-tuned my resume. We have a really helpful article on deconstructing the job description that guides you through this process. For other tips and to see samples, visit the OLC’s Cover Letters and Resumes sections. It is also beneficial to schedule a meeting with your co-op coordinator or advisor to go over your resume and cover letter with you.
3. No Limits
A limiting factor for many job-seeking students is being too narrowly focused in the types of jobs you apply for. I can’t stress enough that you be open to all sorts of jobs. This may involve looking at job postings in areas outside of your field of study, jobs that may not be with your top choice employer(s), as well as co-op positions that are eight months or longer. In every opportunity, there is the potential to learn and broaden your skill set. The reality may be that you need a ‘starter’ job to build up your skills and employability in order to be qualified for your future dream job. Why not look at out-of-province co-op jobs or perhaps even International Co-op opportunities? Although it may seem daunting to work in a field that is outside of your academic discipline or to work away from home, perhaps in another country where a different language is spoken, fear is also a huge limitation. My advice is to pursue those opportunities that may scare you or those you may deem ‘risky.’ Do this, and you will be pleasantly surprised at the things you’re able to learn and achieve.
4. Practice Makes Prepared
As applications are submitted and you begin to receive interview invites, preparation on your own is a must. A great place to start is the company/organization’s website and social media. Go to your program’s co-op office to read over work reports from students who previously worked in the position you are applying for and review OLC blogs written by students who have worked with the same employer. Many students find it helpful to schedule a mock, or practice, interview with your co-op coordinator or advisor, where they will simulate an actual face-to-face interview with you and provide feedback. I also recommend taking a look at the Interviews section on the OLC as well as Interviewstream, a free online job interview streaming service accessible via myExperience.
5. A Helping Hand
Some of the best resources available to you are your co-op coordinators and advisors. As I mentioned, my first seeking semester actually spanned across three semesters involving many interviews and no jobs. I was feeling very discouraged and pretty darn terrible about myself, to say the least. I was ready to forget co-op altogether, that is, until my co-op coordinator asked me to come in and speak with them. I can’t begin to tell you how helpful speaking to my coordinator was, how rejuvenated and re-inspired I felt after leaving their office. After our meeting and a few more job applications, low and behold, I landed a co-op! Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, nor does it in any way demonstrate an insufficiency on your part. That you are willing to ask for assistance actually demonstrates great courage and maturity. If you find yourself needing assistance, advice, inspiration or encouragement, contact your program’s co-op staff.
During your job search, it’s okay to feel discouraged at times, but if you use the resources available to you and keep at it, doors will open and the opportunities and places they can lead are entirely worth discovering.
Best of luck in your job search!
Beyond the Blog
Contact a Co-op Advisor to get more directed tips on your seeking semester!