Landing your first work term can be a lengthy and challenging task, but the work doesn’t stop when you get that offer letter. On the contrary, the real work starts on your first day. Navigating your first day, and even first term can be tricky. I am sharing four tips that helped me make the most of my first work term and helped me turn my 4-month placement into an 8-month one, so hopefully, you can too.
Start off your work term right by making a good impression. If you are unsure of the accepted dress code, always overdress instead of underdressing. It is time to ditch the 8:30am lecture sweatpants and sweatshirts and refresh your closet with some classic business wear and business casual pieces. Places I recommend for stylish workplace attire are H&M, Zara and Uniqlo. Dressing professionally can also make you feel more confident and motivated to work.
During the majority of my first work term, and for a bit of my second term, I felt like I was hired by mistake. I felt like I didn’t really know what was going on, and that I didn’t have what it takes to be in the position I was in. This is called Impostor Syndrome. Many people feel that way. Even those who have been in the industry for years, have some degree of doubt inside them. However, you need to trust that you are good enough and more than qualified for the position you’re in. Your supervisor and colleagues know you’re still a novice at your position, so why stress over feeling out of place or not good enough? We are hired to our positions to learn and grow in low-stakes environments for only few months, so embrace the discomfort! As the saying goes, “the comfort zone is a beautiful place to be, but nothing ever grows there.”
During your Co-op term, imagine yourself as a sponge and soak up as many experiences and as much information as possible. If a colleague asks you to help them with researching or grunt work, then do it! Don’t feel that any task is beneath you, no matter how much experience you already have. Being open to tasks shows your humilty, ability to work within a team, and will let you test your skills. An opportunity not taken is an experience missed out. Whether it’s a small task or a major project, you never know what you can learn from something if you restrict yourself to your job description. Take any opportunity to soak up the knowledge of what the people around you can provide and maximize your time- your future self will thank you.
It is inevitable that some days will just be slow days but don’t let that stop you from learning and achieving your goals. If you find that your work is done for the day, brush up on your skills by reading on industry trends, improving your skillset, or refreshing yourself on your company guidelines. For me, this includes re-designing projects that I worked on before to improve my design skills and refreshing my knowledge of our brand guidelines. No one will be telling you what to do every minute of your work day, so having a successful work term requires motivation and true desire to learn more about the field of work. Take the initiative to learn as much as possible during the short duration of your work term, and don’t take the slow days for granted because there is no shortage of projects and busy days ahead!