Skip to main content

Linda Nguyen

SFU Co-op Student
Communication, Art + Technology › Communication

Linda smiling against a white backdrop looking into the distance
The mistakes above are easy to make when you first start your job, so don’t freak out when you find yourself making one (or multiple) of them

Going into your first Co-op term ever usually comes along with multiple layers of emotions that are hard to explain. After months and months of hard work preparing for your dream job, you finally made it! Super thrilled, you pat yourself on the back. And then, you realize you just threw yourself into the world of offices where you will work your 9-5 among a bunch of grown-ups. Being the new kid can be uncomfortable sometimes, but don’t worry. You have worked so hard to get that job offer; you can do this.

But before going into your first day at work and start this fantastic learning journey, you might want to know four mistakes that are easy to make during your first Co-op term:

1. You Don’t ask Questions

Actually, please do. You are not only new to the job, but you are also new to the work culture. I believe that your supervisors will be more than happy to answer any of your questions rather than let you execute the wrong moves. Remember, doing Co-op means you are going to learn. Your employer would want you to ask silly questions then make decisions without running it by anyone.

2. You Prefer to Sit at your Workstation for the Whole Day

It is undeniable that acting professional is vital in the workplace. But that does not mean you cannot spend a few minutes trying to get to know your co-workers better. By this I mean on a personal level. You don’t have to linger at your co-worker’s desk asking them 20 questions about what they did on the weekend. Try adding in one or two questions whenever you happen to walk by them in the office or if you need to ask them questions about work. It is totally acceptable in the workplace and shows everyone that you are not that “difficult person”. Here’s a tip to keep the conversation flow:

  • Remember the stories you co-workers told you last week, and follow up with them.

  • Ask them “How are you?”

  • Give compliments

3. You Don’t Take Enough Breaks

We may have heard advice saying that overworking can show your hard work and dedication towards your new job. However, this may not be the smartest move if you want to keep your work performance consistent in the long run. Not taking enough breaks during your 7-hour long workday can quickly lead to burn out, which can be worse when you prolong it to a few days of working non-stop. This explains why in site visits, Co-op coordinators always make sure that students take proper and enough breaks. Remember, your health is the most important thing. Side note: Eating lunch at your desk is NOT recommended, hard-working bees. You may want to bring your meal to your communal kitchen, chit chat with your co-workers or even go to a nearby Starbucks for a change of environment. That’s what I did, and it helps.

4. You Wait for Work to Come to your Desk

On the first Co-op term, many of us are eager to learn more and do more. However, just like any other job, not every day is a busy day. You may experience some chill afternoons when there is not much going on around the office. So, instead of sitting there and doing nothing, why not ask your supervisors and your co-workers if they need any help. Taking the initiative not only shows that you are willing to contribute your 100% to the position but also makes time goes by faster. This is also a perfect chance for a newbie like you to review your training or learn more about the office culture.

The mistakes above are easy to make when you first start your job, so don’t freak out when you find yourself making one (or multiple) of them. Being a Co-op student can be a perk as employers understand that you are at entry-level. You are here to learn, so errors are bound to occur. Moreover, who knows the errors you are making today will become your advantage later on in life. Five years from now, you might have already climbed up your career ladder smoothly with these lessons on the back on your hands, while other peeps have to move up at a slower pace and learn from the bumps they haven’t experienced. So errors are not a bad thing, you just need to identify them, correct them, and grow from them.

About the Author

Linda Nguyen

SFU Co-op Student
Communication, Art + Technology › Communication

You Might Like These... Co-op Reflections, Professional Development, First Weeks on the Job, Workplace Success

Person standing in front of a sunset with their arms opened wide
Memories of Boot Camp

When Adam accepted the position of Fire Information Officer for the BC Forest Service, he knew that the job might entail long hours, a steep learning curve and a major lifestyle adjustment. What he did not know was that the whole experience would set off with a week at firefighter boot camp. Read Adams story about surviving bootcamp. 

Elizabeth, author, smiling
My First Month

This blog will chronicle the next eight months as I complete my second and third co-op terms as a member of the TELUS Marcomm team. My first co-op term was in Fall 2010 when I spent four months as the web intern for the Vancouver Canucks. 

a group of people sitting around in a circle talking
Introductions, Rules and Learning Objectives

The following article is the first in a three-part series on how Co-op supervisors can make the most of a Co-op experience with their student. Part one focuses on introductions and expectations, and how to build your students learning objectives.

Linda smiling against a white backdrop looking into the distance
Four Mistakes You Are Likely to Make During Your First Co-op Work Term – And It’s Okay!
First Weeks on the Job, Workplace Transition

Mistakes happen, but do you learn to them?  Linda identifies some common mistakes made by Co-op students on their first work term.

You Might Like These... First Weeks on the Job

What to Wear for Work

It's all fine and dandy to read about how you should dress for work, but some visual examples can help you find the right options at the mall or turn all those options in your closet into a proper outfit.

Candice smiling with a view of Barcelona in the background
Living and Working Abroad in Barcelona, Spain

Are you looking into working abroad for your co-op?  Business student, Candice Woods shares what she learned in her co-op and how to combat homesickness based on her experience working in Barcelona, Spain for her co-op.

What to Do if You've Made a Bad First Impression

First impressions are given a lot of stock in the professional world. But what do you do if you've made a bad one? Learn how to recover gracefully with these tips.