Nobody likes applying for jobs. You have to find a way to brag about yourself without seeming conceited, struggle to make your work experience fit the job description accurately, and then painstakingly examine every letter in your resume because you said you were “detail-oriented”. And that’s just before you apply. Afterwards, the panic about being rejected sets in and haunts you until you hear back from the employer. Or at least that’s how it feels to me.
Putting yourself out there is hard, and what’s worse is when you put yourself out there and don't hear anything back. It makes you feel inadequate, a feeling I became all too familiar with when I was applying to co-op positions for the very first time. I had limited work experience and was worried that I wouldn’t be qualified for any of the positions, so I ended up applying to anything that was remotely related to my area of study, from camp counsellors to waterslide attendants.
Nobody was responding! I didn’t hear anything from employers months after I had applied. Panic started to set in. Was it my cover letter? Did I not have the right experiences? Was I just an all-around terrible person?
I started to look for help. To make sure that my cover letters weren’t complete garbage, I went and made an appointment with my co-op advisor to look over what I was submitting. I was nervous about being critiqued, but it turned out to be extremely helpful. I got great advice on how to better construct my cover letters; instead of just saying I was hardworking, I started to provide examples of how hard I worked. To make my cover letters stand out, my advisor suggested I insert interesting details of my experiences, instead of just a boring summary of positions I had held.
It wasn’t all criticism, however, as the advisor let me know what I was doing right, and I left reassured that I was, in fact, a hireable person who wouldn't be unemployed for all of eternity. I definitely recommend asking for support with cover letters, and even just a friend looking over your writing can be a great help. It’s strange to brag about yourself, and another set of eyes can be a great advantage.
To boost up my resume, I dug through the Co-op Example Resume Gallery on the OLC website. There are multiple examples from all different departments, so no matter what you’re studying, you can find a resume to help you better your own. If you feel you need more than a little resume inspiration, consider checking out SFU’s Career and Volunteer Services where you can set up a meeting with a Career Education Specialist or Career Peer who will assist you with your resume, cover letter, and even conduct practice interviews to make sure you are as prepared as possible.
I didn’t hear back from all the places I applied to. Some amazing employers never contacted me. But that didn’t mean I had failed. Eventually, I did hear back from several employers, I got a co-op job I really wanted, and I had a great first co-op experience. It’s hard to stay calm after bearing your professional soul, but remember that there are lots of great resources and people who are willing to help you out and make your job search successful.