Searching for and adapting to your first co-op work term can be tough and quite unexpected. Having not made a resume beyond what I learned in high school, I found myself lost as of what was expected of me. However, through this process, I realized that there are so many resources available to students to help them stand out and highlight their skill set when applying for their first co-op jobs.
Tip 1: Ask a Co-op Advisor for More Information About a Job Posting
Many times when I was going through the job postings, I found myself wondering more about the company or what the job entailed. The co-op office has built relations with the employers and have likely had many students work with them before, and may be able to give you insight into what a particular job posting looks like. Something else that I found particularly helpful was the past work reports that students completed describing their work experience. Ask to take a look at one or more work reports on the same job to get different perspectives on what past students have experienced.
Tip 2: Go Over Your Resume With Your Advisor Multiple Times Before Applying
Your resume might be the first thing that the employer sees when they are going through the many job applications they receive. It is important to have a resume that stands out but is still clean and refined. For myself, I found this one of the most challenging parts. I was used to the resumes I created years ago for my planning and grad classes and found they had no relation to university co-op resumes. While the workshop for resumes and cover letters is mandatory, it is also extremely important for students to have a one-on-one meeting with an advisor (and more than once!) so you can work on your brand and layout of your resume as well as content and grammar.
Tip 3: Interview Practice
One of the most useful tools I found was the interview practice. Not having done an interview in several years, I had no idea what to expect and was curious as to how interviews for co-op might differ from interviews I had done in the past. A great online resource is the SFU OLC website. This website features information on resumes, cover letters, and workshops, but it also has great information for interview practice! This section outlines general and specific questions that may be asked and gives students advice on what to do when they face specific interview challenges.
Tip 4: Talk to an Advisor About Applications That Were Not Your Best
Sometimes getting your first co-op job can be difficult, as you do not yet have skills or experience from your previous work terms, which usually means you are applying to as many jobs as possible in the hopes of getting placed. However, through this process, it can be easy to submit applications packages that are rushed or not your best work. If an advisor contacts you asking to speak to you about a recent application you submitted, go in and talk it over! Find out what you need to improve on and how you can make sure you do not make the same mistakes in the future.
Tip 5: Talk to the Co-op Office Throughout Your Term
For students who have never done co-op before, it can be hard to know what is expected and how to deal with any challenges along the way. However, it's important to talk about how you're learning objectives are coming along and how you're adapting to this new kind of job. The co-op office is there to support students, so if you need to, do not hesitate to reach out and discuss how your work term is going!