If you are planning to or currently seeking job placement, then this article is for you! II personally experienced struggles in seeking a Co-op position at the end of my degree during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic as most employers closed their businesses or cancelled job offers. And although the worst of the health crisis is nearing its end, it’s still impacting the labour market, with most jobs now being remote or having a flexible schedule. Even having lived through unprecedented stress during my job search, I thought to share some advice that could apply to anyone going through their application process.
Here are some tips I wish I knew earlier so that my experience finding a Co-op wasn’t so stressful.
Prepare All Your Application Documents in Advance
Try to use all of the resources available to you as a Co-op student, such as courses like BOL1 and BOL2. It’s a good idea to write your resume and cover letter before your seeking term to save you the stress. You will thank yourself later! When I was applying, I was glad that I took the opportunity to finalise the text and design for my documents, and get recommendations from advisors and friends early on in the process. I also sought help from the SFU Library and asked peer reviewers to check my resume and cover letter for grammar mistakes.
I find it really exhausting to try and apply every day, especially when you have courses, exams, and other problems you need to worry about. Moreover, if you don’t have the energy or are in a bad mood on a particular day, there is a high chance that you’ll make mistakes in your application. It’s better to set at least two days a week to apply for jobs. On most websites, there is a filter button where you can check new postings from a particular date. Unless there is a really interesting job posting with a close deadline, don’t force yourself to apply when you don’t want to.
Listen to Yourself
Finding a job is always difficult, especially finding a co-op when you are a student and don’t have a lot of experience. It can be frustrating to wait for someone to invite you for an interview; the statistic is different for each person, but out of many applications, you are lucky if you get 1-2 interview invites.
Friends, family members, and Co-op advisors can give different advice and recommendations. While it’s important to hear other opinions and objective critiques, you decide how you are going to apply and with what resume at the end of the day. If you want to select a different design or change sections in your resume differently from what others advised, you can do that. The most important opinion is yours.
Explore Different Options
Everyone has dreams and goals for themselves, but it can be difficult to achieve them. Sometimes, you need to experience challenges before you get the reward. So, if you are determined to find a Co-op position in a particular field right now and aren’t seeing results, don’t be afraid to try something different.
That’s what happened to me. I was studying international studies and wanted a Co-op in that field, particularly at a consulate or work related to diplomacy or international relations. I couldn’t find any jobs in this area and started to apply to business, economics, and communications postings as well. As a result, I have secured a year-long Co-op in supply chain management and after those four months, I’ll be working at a consulting firm. This experience helped me to try different jobs, learn more about other industries and explore opportunities outside of my area of study. Now I am considering working in consultancy because I enjoy it.
Prepare for Interviews
Interviews have a tendency of being demanding and exhausting. In the days, or even weeks, of preparing for them, anxiety can build up. You might go down the spiral of self-doubt, thinking that somebody else may be better suited for the role. That is not true! Believe that you are the one—try to get rid of the impostor syndrome and understand that most people experience difficulties at the beginning of their career.
Moreover, you have a different background than the other candidates you are up against—leverage that! Show how your background is relevant to the role you are applying for, how your experiences shaped you, and how they helped you to become a better version of yourself. Think of the obstacles that you have overcome. Reflecting on your past experiences helps not only for the interview (interviewers love learning about your background). It gives you a confidence boost as well, helping you to realize that you are well worth the role, and that you are able to bring something to the table.
Also—and I cannot stress this enough—do mock interviews with your peers! The person interviewing you can be your friend, relative, or whoever wants to do a mock interview with you—find anyone! You will be surprised about how many things your mock interviewer will take note of. For example, a big one for me was that I was constantly shying away from looking at the interviewer; I was either looking at the wall or to the side. Would I be able to catch that without mock interviews? Definitely not. Mock interviews can help you to catch mistakes, gain confidence and get used to the interview process. It’s a good trick to prepare yourself because during the real interview you will be more nervous and focused on other things. Practicing and working on your weaknesses could help to decrease the level of stress.
Don’t Give Up
If you take anything away from this article, let it be: don’t give up! I know it can be discouraging at first to send lots and lots of applications with tailored resumes and cover letters, and either not get an interview offer or not pass the interview stage. Push through it and believe in yourself! If you think you are on the wrong path, always feel free to reach out to your peers, your Co-op coordinator, or anyone else from your social support system. I am sure they will tell you the same thing: “Do not give up!” You got this!