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SFU Co-op Student

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As a co-op student, you’re going to learn so much on the job and about whatever field you’re working in

Okay, so you land a Co-op position after sending out what feels like millions of resumes and sweating through multiple carefully curated interview outfits. The hard part is over! Or is it? Transitioning into working a 9-5 job for the first time in your life can be an unparalleled challenge in itself. If you’re scared, know you are not alone! My hope is, by the end of this article, you can learn some tips and tricks to keep from feeling like a lost puppy as you enter the workforce.

Picture of an anxious girl


Why Clichés Are So Overused? Because of the Truth Behind Them

Okay, by this point in your university career, you’ve heard all of the confidence-boosting clichés in the book: “Fake it ’til you make it,” “Be yourself,” “You can’t judge a book by its cover” and “Actions speak louder than words.” Well, I’m here to be the 900th person to divulge them again.

Fake it till you make it:

On your first day at a new job, it is absolutely NORMAL to feel apprehensive, antsy, and straight up worried you won’t do a good job. I remember being very aware of every movement I was making, worrying if people were analyzing them as much as I was.

My inner dialogue went as follows:

  “Why am I tapping my foot so much? I can’t stop but it’s making noise and they’re going to think I’m jumpy and nervous.”

  “Have I gone to the bathroom too many times? They think I’m a slacker already!”

  “Do they notice how sweaty I am? Is it always this hot in here? Is it unprofessional to take off my sweater, even though I’m only wearing a camisole top underneath?”

All of these thoughts (or whatever your variations of them are) are absolutely normal. One thing to remember: be a duck. Okay, sorry, I may have lost you: I’ll back track. Ducks look calm, cool and collected on the surface, but underneath the water they’re kicking their feet fast and furious to stay afloat. My point being: you can let your thoughts run wild and let your mind freak out as much as you see fit. As long as you greet everyone by looking them in the eye and smiling, you’re good to go. You won’t look half as scared as you’re feeling on the inside. 

Anxiety as a contact calling someone

Actions speak louder than words:

Okay, so maybe this cliché makes you think of being in an argument with your friends, significant other, parents, etc. but this can hold really true for the workplace. I have no doubt you will work hard in your new job to ask questions, complete your tasks on time, and get the most out of the experience. You can and will talk the talk to show your strong work ethic and get your coworkers to like you! However, in any situation, extra little actions can get you that much further ahead.

As a co-op student, you’re going to learn so much on the job and about whatever field you’re working in, but don’t be afraid to offer to do office grunt work in your down time. Your colleagues will be proud and pleased with the work you’re doing on your tasks and assignments, but they’ll also be so appreciative you took some filing, photocopying, organizing, etc. off their hands! You spend so much time with the people you work with, it makes a massive difference when a team appreciates and supports one another.

So, my friends: stay late once in a while, bring office treats, notice when someone’s having an off day, remember the names of your boss’s kids and your colleague’s partner; write your coworker’s birthdays down, and try your hardest not to have an ego. If you can do this - you will succeed!

image showing a woman flexing her biceps

Take a second, you little achiever! You landed this job in the first place, which means your employer saw something in you and on your resume that made you stand out to them and give you a chance. That’s a pretty cool victory in itself, right? So, continue to be yourself and things will come together. You’ll create the “office” version of yourself that you are comfortable with and love to be.

Last, but not least: Be Yourself

I am a naturally very jokey and comical person, and for the first few weeks of my job, this was an aspect of my personality I tried really hard to keep, maybe not hidden, but not at the forefront of all the other things I was trying to bring to the table in a new position. However, I remember very clearly delivering a carefully timed ‘one liner’ to my new work friends a few weeks in and being greeted with heavy laughter and appreciative smiles all around. I realized, though I will always remain professional in my work settings, being serious all the time isn’t who I am. My ability to bring humour into everyday situations is actually one of things I like most about myself, so I found I could absolutely bring that into a work setting while still keeping things professional and respecting my superiors.

Well, that’s all from me for now, but our friend Google is chock full of many more clichés that you can use, too. The basic sentiment remains: you can do this! If you take nothing but this from this article, remember, be yourself and the rest will follow. You’re going to kill it this co-op term.

picture with a quote "But after a while, you learn to ignore the names people call you and just trust who you are"

SFU Co-op Student
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Sep 29, 2020

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