I am writing this article to inform my fellow students how important Co-op work experience is. Not only in securing future jobs but also by changing your perspective on life. I am going to discuss the events between finding a job to securing one and how big of an impact it had on my life.
I am a 4th year Mechatronic Systems Engineering student with four completed Co-op work terms. I started looking for my first Co-op work term in my second year during the summer semester with no prior work experience. Finding my first Co-op was a challenge. The Co-op office staff was encouraging and coached me to review both on and off campus opportunities. I had in my mind to stay fixed to my program schedule, which in review was limiting myself as the industry is more favorable to longer Co-op work terms. As the seeking term was closing and I had yet to go on an interview, I applied to on-campus opportunities. After I wrote my last final exam that semester, I received a phone call from a Co-op office with good news, telling me that I had an interview for a “Magnetics Research Assistant” Co-op position on campus with one of the Mechatronic Systems Engineering Professors at the SFU Power Lab. I was also informed by my fellow students that candidates with better grades were also called in for an interview, but that did not bother me at all as I trusted myself more than anyone else.
Going for the first job interview of my life, I dressed up in something that makes me not only comfortable but also confident. I walked in that interview as the person I am, not trying to be someone I am not. The interview was about 30 minutes long and was straightforward. Leaving the room, I knew I had secured the first job of my life. Two days later, I received an offer letter, for which I had been waiting for all semester. The Co-op opportunity offered advanced learning and exposure to aspects of engineering that I knew in the industry I would not be afforded. The learning outweighed the compensation. With my mind set open, aiming at what I can learn from this Co-op term, I decided to go with it. My perspective on it was I have the rest of my life to make money, but something like this can help me move forward in life.
I got to learn so much during that time, it was one of the most productive Co-op work terms I ever had. I came back to school after Co-op with the inspiration to learn even more. I started to look for another Co-op that semester, I had five interviews in one week, received three job offers and was able to secure a job within the first month of semester. I did my next Co-op work term at Ballard Power Systems (8 months) as “Fuel Cell Design Engineer” followed by Kensington (4 months) where I worked as “Electrical and Software Engineer”.
Looking back, I am so glad that I went with that first job. I can totally say that one phone call changed my life. There were challenges leading to it, but it is something that most of the students go through when looking for their first Co-op work term and I really hope this article helps you make that first decision towards your career. I recommend everyone on taking an on-campus Co-op work term, which not only helps you secure a future job but also helps you discover your own skills and potential.
Beyond the Blog
Learn more about the Engineering Co-op program.