Like anyone going into their first Co-op term, I felt nervous. Thoughts went through my head like “Am I smart enough?” or “Will I even get an interview?” I couldn't let these negative thoughts control me and I had to remind myself of all the strengths I had, such as hard work and being a good team player. I knew I wouldn’t be the most knowledgeable candidate, but I did know that I would be the hardest worker and would always be willing to learn.
If I had to sum up my Co-op job hunting experience, I would say it felt like being on a roller coaster. In the beginning, it started off super strong. I got an interview for one of the first applications I submitted, which gave me a confidence boost right out of the gate. Sadly, I didn’t get the job, but I wasn’t worried at the time since it was my first ever interview. I took it as a learning experience.
The small wave of initial success quickly died, and I didn’t get to the interview stage for the next 15 applications. My confidence at this time wasn’t the greatest, so I decided to reach out to my Co-op coordinator to see if they could give any suggestions to help boost my odds of success. One of the suggestions I was given was to add more “how” statements to my resume. Companies want to know more about how you did something rather than what you did so that they can see how you complete tasks. I was also told to make my cover letters more customized as I did start to slip up on that while creating many cover letters. As I kept on applying to jobs with my newly updated resume, I started to gain the feeling that this could be a turning point, and to my luck, it was.
In the following few weeks after the resume and cover letter updates, I got five interviews, which greatly boosted my confidence. This, however, would not be the end of the ups and downs of the rollercoaster ride. The first four out of five interviews seemed to go well but I didn’t end up getting the job. Then there was the fifth interview that put me at my lowest point during the whole experience.
This interview was a little different than all the others as it had a one-hour test at the beginning to test my knowledge of Structured Query Language (SQL). I previously had a few courses that touched briefly on SQL, so I felt confident going into the test as I did well with learning SQL in those classes. I even went back to look over my lecture notes on SQL to make sure that I remembered everything I’d been taught. When the day of the interview came, I went to the company’s office very confident, thinking I had a good chance of getting this job. Sadly, this was short-lived—the moment I saw the SQL test, my mind went straight to “Oh, this is not going to go well.”
I was given three tables of hockey team information and standings. I had to join them together and then do a few filters and calculations. The filters and calculations were fairly straightforward as I remembered learning how to do that in class. However, the challenging part was the joining of three tables. I had only been taught in class to join two tables together and the method we learned couldn’t be translated to joining more than two tables. I never ended up getting it to work and after one hour, my potential boss walked in to see that I hadn’t accomplished the task. This made me feel embarrassed, and I felt bad for having wasted his time. He didn’t seem too impressed and went on to say that this was a very basic task that all the other candidates accomplished easily. Before I left though, I made sure to ask if he could tell me the way to go about solving the problem as I still wanted to learn for the future. Thankfully, he showed me what I was missing, which was very kind of him.
Coming away from this interview, I definitely felt at my lowest. I started to question if I’d get a job at all since I couldn’t even complete a basic task in SQL. However, I persevered and kept applying to jobs. A few weeks later, I had another interview, which to my relief, was a success. My confidence was back up for now, but I was still nervous that when I actually got to the job, I would not have the knowledge to accomplish certain tasks.
Thankfully, I got the best job and boss I could ask for as my boss encourages us to learn and gain new skills. My knowledge of SQL and many other areas has skyrocketed in this short period of time. Looking back on that SQL test I was given, I can now easily finish it in five minutes since I use everything I would need to accomplish it on a daily basis in my job. In our little team, I’ve become the one to go to for questions about SQL, and I have managers from other departments coming to me to create reports for them, which I make with the help of my SQL queries.
Overall, Co-op will be a journey, but there is always light at the end of the tunnel. As long as you keep trying and persevering, something will turn up eventually. There will definitely be some low points along the way, and you won’t likely get the first job you apply for, but as long as you put the effort in, you’ll be rewarded.