Starting a co-op term for the first time can be daunting. It’s difficult to really grasp how the company works and what’s expected of a co-op without first-hand experience. The good news is, employers, know what level students are going to be at. Here are some tips some experienced co-op students wish they knew when first starting a new job.
1. Keep A Record
After four months, eight months, or especially a year, it’ll be difficult to remember everything you did on the job. Maintain a notebook of the projects and tasks you’ve worked on, what tools you used to do it, who you worked with and what impact it had on the company. Not only will it help you keep track of your job if you ever need to look back, but it will make updating your resume a lot easier as well.
2. Boldly Be Ignorant
Experts tend to forget what beginners don’t know so if you come across something you don’t know, don’t be afraid to ask about it. As a co-op, it’s expected that you aren’t going to know everything. Working as a student is the time to learn by making smart mistakes. Most people are happy to help. If there are other co-op students on your team, especially more experienced students, they might be a better choice for asking questions you may feel are silly and are hesitant to ask your supervisor. Your fellow co-ops are in the same boat you are and will be the last ones to judge if you’re really worried about how your question might come across.
Make sure you know how urgent the task you’ve been assigned is. If it’s very time-sensitive, make a plan to help you finish on time. If you think you won’t be able to get it done on time, let someone know early on or ask for help. However, if you have a lot of time, it’s good practice to try to figure out things yourself.
4. Make Opportunities
If you’re interested in working on a certain project or trying out a different role, make it known. Your employer will often be supportive of helping you figure out your career path, but they won’t know what you are interested in unless you tell them. Even if you have to stay on your assigned task, there may be other ways to connect you to your goals, such as job shadowing or sitting in on related meetings. If you have ideas for the company or the project you’re working on, pitch them! Propose changes to workflows or how information is shared.
5. Talk To Anyone And Everyone
Networking is one of those recommended tasks that no one really wants to do, but networking with coworkers while on a co-op makes it so much easier. Working in the same company, you already have common ground to start a conversation off of. Ask random people hanging out in common areas like the kitchen about what they do for the company, what they like about their job, or add them on LinkedIn. Get connected with someone who has a job you want after graduation, or even someone who has your dream job, and see if they are willing to sit down with you for fifteen minutes to ask them questions.
At the center of all of these tips is communication. Be vocal about your aspirations, questions, concerns, and ideas. A good employer will appreciate them all.