Skip to main content

Ray Le

SFU Co-op Student
Applied Sciences › Mechatronic Systems Engineering

empty
A road sign that says Slow Down
Credit
Nareeta Martin on Unsplash
Overall, I've learned from my most recent co-op work term that every job will have its downtime.

Every job has its slow days every once in a while. Sometimes, it can be a day where you find yourself running out of work to do. Other times, you are waiting for feedback on project you are currently working on and can't move forward without that feedback. That can often leave you with free time which may make you feel bored and unproductive. So how do you make the most of a slow day at work? Here are 5 ways you can get through a slow day while being productive.

1. Be Present and Stay Present

Having a less busy day with more free time does not mean you have the right to go home early or to arrive late to work. Your team members are still counting on you, so be present at work and show up for when you are expected to be. You might have a quiet lull in workload but more work can come anytime. When that new set of assignments comes by, you have to be present to be ready for it.

2. Ask for Work

The simplest thing to do when you see your workload is empty is to let your supervisor or manager know. Talk to them about your situation and ask for more work to do. If they can not come up with something immediately, talk to your colleagues and team members. They may ask you to do simple stuff such as an updated drawing, check BOM (Bill-of-material) or solder some wire. But, hey, at least you have some work to do! 

Also, you are showing to your team you are interested in improving and enhancing your skillsets by asking for more work. How do you know that those simple skills and experiences will not help you in your future career? 

I used to ask the marketing department if I can help them with anything (even though I am working for engineering department) and they gave me some PCB modification work to do that help me improve my soldering skill significantly. Of course, you should inform your supervisor first before spend time helping another department just in case they will need your help soon.

3. Read Project Documents

Reading and learning is always a good thing to do, especially when you have a great professional resource like your company’s design. Try to understand why an engineer prefers some IC chips over another in that specific application, how do they come up with their design and what does that transistor does in the circuit. If you are getting stuck at some point, ask your colleagues, as they are the best teachers in this case. You can even try to find the project prototype to do some experiments or re-assemble the product to have a better understanding of it. Eventually, you will pick up some new knowledge or even find a way to improve the previous project, which may contribute greatly to your company.

4. Practice Your Skills While Waiting

Practice, practice, and practice in order to sharpen your skillsets. Re-draw a complicated design that your co-worker does on SolidWorks. Or, update the component library on Altium Designer. You can even re-design a project you worked on before to improve your design skills. For me, engineering work is not only about come up with new design, but it is also about improving your existing product or changing a component that going to be obsoleted. Thus, practicing your skill by re-design your project is a good way to spend your time too.

Overall, I've learned from my most recent co-op work term that every job will have its downtime. It's important to not be discouraged when you are running out of a new project to do for a few weeks stray. Stay positive and try to make the most out of your co-op experience. I've given some tips on how you can make the most of your Co-op experience. This includes staying present, asking for more work, reading up on project documents, and practicing your skills while waiting. Don't worry too much about slow days because great project and interesting work experience will come to you.

About the Author

Ray Le

SFU Co-op Student
Applied Sciences › Mechatronic Systems Engineering
Photo of the author giving a presentation
Creating Value: The Adventures of an IT Co-op Student

As someone who didn’t have a lot of direct experience in a technological setting, providing value to the organization had to come from something much bigger than my direct skill set.

A photo of the author
The 201st Application

It’s been two months and 20 days since my first day of my Co-op term at Westcoast Family Centres, but I still find myself waking up every other day in utter disbelief that things worked out!

You Might Like These... Co-op Reflections, Professional Development, Career Exploration, Seeking, Work Term Extension

author, courtney, smiling
A Second Term in Government: More of the Same?

Having completed my first work term for Health Canada as a Communications Officer Intern, I was eager to try something new, and the government was not where I believed that was going to happen. That is until I was offered a position at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada...

picture of glichelle pondering a though
Surviving Workplace Politics

Ever been peeved with workplace politics? Have you ever been a victim of office politics? One student shares her experiences from the workplace with tips on how to survive.

 

person with their head in a book
Responsibility and Success

One of the most memorable parts of my time in co-op was the collection of accidents, errors, mistakes, and mix-ups that happened in the course of working in the laboratory.

 

You Might Like These... Co-op Reflections

Construction workers
Diversify Yourself While You Can

For most engineering students, three semesters of Co-op work is a requirement for graduation. Follow Scott on his Co-op journey as he gradually discovers his passions by taking on multiple Co-op opportunities. 

Maggie Benston Centre
How I Faced and Overcame My Fears

Relax! Yes, you may have made a mistake, but it is how you handle the consequences that count. Carina talks about how she made mistakes, faced her fears and learned from them.

a girl and a guy walking side by side downtown Vancouver
Leave University with Years of Relevant Experience: Do 3+ Co-op Work Terms

Getting a great job without experience can be tough. Business Co-op Program Manager, Tanya Behrisch explains how to graduate with not just work experience but more than a year of relevant experience, all while completing your degree.