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Courtney Novotny

SFU Co-op Student
Arts + Social Sciences

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Self-directed placements enable you to find a position that is best suited to your career and personal goals in a part of the world that you're interested in. Plus, you may be eligible for International Co-op bursaries and awards.

Go International . .  . Go Self-Directed

Please note: before you can complete an international co-op work term, you must first join Co-op.

What is a Self-Directed Co-op?

Self-directed Co-op work terms can be completed both at home and abroad. Basically, you, the student, go out and find an employer and create a co-op position yourself. Students sometimes have personal connections and networks around the world that are useful to set up self-directed work terms. Other times, students have specific international intentions and they begin searching into that country's job search resources to come up with their own job. Some students research the websites of companies that have offices worldwide and look into whether or not they hire interns. Of course, these are just a few of  the options you have when searching for a self-directed international work  term.

When considering whether a company can provide you with a Co-op placement, please note that there are certain requirements that a  position must meet to be considered a Co-op placement:

  • The placement must provide you with 420 hours of work experience. This can be over one semester or more and there is flexibility in how students present this to the employer; 

  • There has to be some level of supervision and training;  

  • You need  to have someone to work with you on your learning objectives and to engage in feedback with you; and  

  • There must be some level of remuneration/ salary/compensation (e.g: you get paid for travel expenses and/or there is some labour for some goods and services).

How Do I Go About Looking for a Self-Directed International Co-op?

  • SFU International Co-op provides several links on their website to job finding sources. A good place to start is Going Global, which you can access by logging in to Symplicity and clicking on the link  in the bottom right corner. Going Global has an excellent internship  search tool (click on 'Job Postings and Internship Listings') that allows you  to narrow your search to specific areas and countries of the world, as well as  by the area of work you are interested in. Going Global posts both internships and regular job postings, so to narrow your search, I recommend clicking on the 'academic search tool,' which brings up an  additional box on which you can check off all that apply. I suggest selecting all keywords that have anything to do with internship or student (i.e. 'undergraduate internship,' 'summer internships,' etc). Going Global updates its job bank regularly, so if you are  particularly keen on a certain area of the world or a certain industry, it is a good idea to search the site on a regular basis - you never know when your ideal opportunity will be posted!

  • Another great way to get started searching for international placements is to look at the websites of large, international companies, who often offer internships in their various offices around the world. SFU International Co-op lists several of these companies on theirwebsite, but there are many more than those listed, and you would be more than welcome to work at a company not on that list. If you have already completed a local work term with a company that has international offices or connections, consider exploring those to find out where potential employment might lie. Your boss  from last summer may be able to give you a stellar recommendation to his French or Chinese or Australian colleagues and you could be on a plane before you know it.  

  • Speaking of networks, as the world becomes more internationalized, people increasingly make connections around the world. If you have a friend, relative, or connection elsewhere in the world, consider exploring this relationship as a way to network your way to a job in a different country. Perhaps you can intern at your uncle's company. Maybe you can help bring a North American perspective to your international peer's  workplace. Don't be afraid to explore your options and use your international and interpersonal resources around the world - you never know what opportunities may pop up!

  • Other places you can begin searching for a self-directed work placement include the respective international equivalent to a job search tool that you might already be using in Canada. For example, if you are familiar with Craigslist in Vancouver, you might be interested in searching the German or Japanese variety. You can also check out any English language newspapers and media in the country you wish to work to see if they list any employment opportunities. These types  of media are often great places to look for positions that require a native English speaker or for a position that will allow the employee to speak and work in English.

Internationalize Your Resume

Before you apply for any position that you come across, you should be sure to update and internationalize your employment materials. This may involve redoing your resume in some cases, and paying specific attention to cover letter details. Visit the International Co-op website for links to tips and tricks on how to best update and internationalize your resume to put your most employable self forward in an applicant pool. You can also use your Co-op resources, as you would when applying for any other local position, and receive feedback on resumes and cover letters.

When Should I Start?

As soon as you are seriously interested in working abroad, you should start researching international work opportunities. It can take several months to secure an international placement and you will need to give yourself enough time to secure the proper visas and permits before you go. Giving yourself ample time will also help in researching accommodation and travel arrangements.  

What Are You Waiting For?

No more excuses! The benefits to finding your ideal international position are endless. You'll be happy with your placement because you'll be in an industry and a country that you are interested in and you will feel satisfied that you have brought your international and career dreams to fruition. In searching for your self-directed placement, you will gain valuable research skills and have the opportunity to expand your network. Self-directed placements enable you to find a position that is best suited to your career and personal goals in a part of the world that you're interested in. Plus, you may be eligible for International Co-op bursaries and awards. Start your work search today!

Keep in touch!

Self-directed work searches can seem scary but are often the most exciting -  please keep in touch with Co-op and let us know how your work search is going. If you have further questions, feel free to contact your home faculty Co-op coordinator or SFU International Co-op.

About the Author

Courtney Novotny

SFU Co-op Student
Arts + Social Sciences

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