Paul Methot worked very hard for two semesters and his efforts paid off when he landed his first Co-op position with Drexel University in Philadelphia in Marketing and Design for Fall 2012.
He shared his experience about his Co-op journey walking us through from his motivations for joining the program to getting a job offer this semester.
Why Did You Join Co-op?
I joined Co-op because I felt that after having been exposed to so many new interests at SFU, I should give myself the chance to explore those interests further in a workplace context.
My brother had done two Co-op experiences: one of them was internationally in Germany and one locally in Vancouver. He had learned a lot about himself and about the direction he wanted to take his career through those experiences. I figured it would be beneficial to follow a similar route, due to the success he had with Co-op and so I began connecting with the Co-op Coordinators.
How Did You Grow Throughout This Process of Finding a Job?
I learned a tremendous amount through the process of finding my first Co-op job.
Becoming a part of Co-op appealed to me from the very beginning, but I was afraid of the amount of work it would be and how it might slow me down, or even interfere with my graduation. I was having enough trouble keeping up with my courses and I had little experience designing a resume outside of a word processor, let alone my own personal portfolio website. At this point I was nearing the limit for the Co-op registration deadline and had to make a decision. So I put myself out there and joined.
After my first appointment with Melissa, who is one of the Co-op advisors at the Surrey campus, things changed for me. My previous fears became challenges that I now knew I had the support to overcome. Melissa and the rest of the Co-op team were very caring and supportive in helping me learn what my strengths are and how to go about showcasing them. It's throughout this process of building myself up with resume drafts, logo designs, finding showcaseable projects and my own website that I realized that I was learning so much about myself and what I'm good at.
By the time I was applying for jobs, I felt comfortable applying for any job that sounded interesting to me because I understood that my skills were strong and diverse. Going after what's interesting to me now could lead to a career doing what I love in the future. It is at this point in my process of finding a job that I felt that I had grown substantially. I am now ready to continue my learning outside the walls of SFU, working internationally for six months and doing what's interesting to me.
How Did the Co-op Services Help You to Get a Placement at Drexel University?
Co-op services were a major part of me getting my placement at Drexel University. From the minute I set foot in their offices, I was cared for and assisted with any challenges that stood in the way of me getting a placement. Every resource imaginable was available to me throughout this process from one-on-one critical feedback, to online tutorials and workshops.
If you have the drive to get a placement, then you will have no problems finding the people and the online help to get you there and that's something that I've learned while working with the Co-op services team. There is every possible resource available to students for success in finding a placement with Co-op and it's really up to you to use them.
I found that continued meetings with my advisors were particularly the best ways to keep updated on what needed working on and for receiving one-on-one feedback on how my documents were progressing. I also found the mandatory group workshops to be very helpful in providing an environment where you can ask questions and meet people that are in the same situation as you.
One of my fears was whether or not I should accept an interview for one job when I was waiting for a replies to my other applications. I decided to ask my interview workshop advisor for her opinion and it so happened she knew the exact position job posting for the interview and she was able to give me an account of how excellent their program is and how I should without a doubt go for it.
Another resource I also found very helpful was the Online Learning Community, especially with calming my nerves about the interview process. For me, interviews bring out anxieties that I can't ignore. But the interview page on the SFU OLC page was very informative and gave me some confidence in preparing for and dealing with tough interview questions.
With regards to my upcoming Drexel University job placement, I have continued support from both the Burnaby and Surrey Co-op offices. They are always sending me important need-to-know information and keeping me posted on future opportunities.
Since I've received an international Co-op placement, I felt comfortable contacting not only my usual Co-op Surrey contacts, but also Amy Lee who is the International Co-op advisor for SFU as well as my employer Susan Braun at Drexel University. I've come to know that they are all genuine and caring people that are there to support me throughout my Co-op education and beyond.
How Did You Feel When You Were Told You Got an Offer?
When I first found out that I had been offered the job I was both excited and at the same time relieved. I felt relief because I knew that all the hard work that I had put in along with the help of my advisors had paid off.
I was also very excited to tell my parents since they have been supporting my Co-op initiative since day one. I'm sure they're excited that I'll be out of the house and out of their hair also. The job itself sounded really good and having the opportunity to live on my own, in another country, on the other side of the continent is something I am still very excited about doing.
I have a brother who lives in Montreal and so I'm hoping to be able to spend some time with him while I'm living in the East. I'll also have time to explore new cities and different cultures.
There are times when I feel a little bit nervous about this opportunity as well. As I prepare to find a place to live and am waiting on my international Visa, I'm starting to realize that I will be away from the country, my familiar surroundings and my friends for six months.
I've never lived on my own before, so I'm hoping to maybe learn how to cook while I'm away. I'm also looking forward to having some time to work on my refining my drawing and guitar skills and maybe catch a Philadelphia Flyers hockey game while I'm at it.
What Advice Do You Have for Students Who Are Looking for Their First Work Term?
Engage with Co-op
The first step is to bring in your resume no matter what condition it is currently in. From there you will have the support to move forward. Ask questions and be open about your goals and ambitions.
Use your quest for a Co-op job as a learning experience, where you will test yourself and put yourself out there for others to see. Set goals and outline the ways you will reach them starting with small goals like the wording a profile paragraph about yourself, or designing a logo concept. Getting your documents completed isn't hard if you set goals. But it will take time so setting that time aside for Co-op is the key.
Tailored Cover Letters
Write tailored cover letters for each application. This is important because companies will know that you've put forth the extra effort with them. This isn't to say you need to re-write the whole letter, for example you may keep a relevant experience across several letters, but it is important to introduce yourself and conclude your letter with tailored content for each application.
It is also good to do so as practice. You will notice, like I did, that with each cover letter you will become more comfortable with the writing. The more you write, the better they will eventually be when you are looking for that perfect job that you've been waiting for.
Apply for Many Jobs
Apply to as many Co-op jobs as you possibly can. This will not only give you choices as you start to hear back from companies, but it will also soften the disappointment of not getting a particular job.
Obviously you should try your best to make yourself appear as a good fit in any organization that you choose to apply for, but it is never guaranteed that you will land the job so spread your applications and you will have a greater chance of finding something.
My advice for prospective Co-op students is to persist beyond any of your fears of Co-op. You will meet kind and caring people who want you to succeed and you will learn a lot about yourself in the process.
Co-op will not slow down your education, it will instead provide you with opportunities that will excite you and help with overcoming your anxieties about where you will work after post-graduation.