So, the semester is ending and finals are around the corner. You are 73 applications and 72 rejections deep into your co-op hunt and it’s looking like you may have to settle. What happens when the Co-op you get is not ‘The One’ and how do you navigate that?
This can be especially true for your first Co-op job, that you may find yourself having to settle for a role that was not necessarily your first choice. I recommend taking a moment to accept that your whole life has just been remixed, then, after that, opening your mind up to the possibilities and opportunities that lie in the Co-op you actually have. It may be a blessing in disguise.
Sometimes a Co-op will help you more with personal rather than professional growth. I grew up watching adults around me working 12-hour days and still managing to scramble for their families. Working my 9-5pm job has given me a glimpse of what adulting is and has made me a much more grateful and compassionate person towards people who work hard to make ends meet.
Co-op allowed me to gauge my preferences in the workplace. I now know what kind of environment I prefer to work in in terms of size and organisational culture. Even though I walked into a Co-op that was not even mildly related to what I see myself doing in the future, I quickly figured out what I liked and disliked about that specific job and thus tried to make the most of it.
In my experience, relationships at work can be weird and the age gap and personality differences do not make them easier, but for conversation’s sake, stay on top of current affairs whether it’s here in BC or around the world. You will need something to say after the weather and that is always a good place to start.
My Co-op in retrospect taught me how to get comfortable in my own skin despite the fact that I am much younger than the people I work with. Managers don’t hire you so you can blend in to the current work environment. They hire you so you can energize the workplace and bring your youthfulness into the organisation, so don’t leave that at the door in an attempt to be formal.
Who’s Who in the Zoo?
On top of learning new technical skills, Co-op helps you build a network with people you wouldn’t normally associate yourself with and that is a good thing because it provides a learning opportunity, launching you from your comfort zone right into the deep end.
Get to know people in the following order: The receptionist, your boss, his/her boss, IT Department, the GLUE (the person who sticks the organisation together) and then everybody else. That way you get resources sorted, learn the hierarchy faster and start the building blocks of a work support system.
An employer expects you to come and give nothing other than your 100% in your contribution to organizational goal. But as an intern, I challenge you to always give more than that. Approach work like a team sport and leave nothing but your best on the playing field because your attitude and level of dedication will quickly become your trademark. At the end of the day, Co-op is mastering new skills and networking, you only get out what you put in to the experience.