Congrats! You’ve landed that job you worked so hard to get. Now what? Fret not, for we’ve got some tips for you below on a few ways to prepare for your new co-op term. Not all these steps are needed; they are simply suggestions for you to take away what you like and adjust as needed so you can put your mind at ease when it comes to your first day. Good luck!
Ideally, a week or more before your first day on the job, do some reflection and think about what you’re good at (what skills and experience you have to offer), and what you want to learn or get out of this work experience (what you want to take the opportunity to work on, or further develop). Putting some thought into this will definitely help steer you towards a more fruitful experience.
Go through your closet and see what you have to work with. Ask yourself: Do I have three professional-looking outfits to rotate throughout my first week? If not, look into buying some basic work attire pieces. You don’t have to spend a whole lot to look professional.
Connect with your employer by email or phone, depending on his or her preference, and confirm details such as your start date, time (start and end), location, and double check that your employer will be the one you look for when you’ve arrived.
Take some time to think about how you’ll get to work. If you plan on taking public transportation, my suggestion is to check both Google and/or Translink. If you plan on driving, Google is also a great resource to check how much time it may take to drive to your new workplace. Simply input the ‘to’ and ‘from’ addresses right into Google, for example: “8888 University drive, Burnaby to 13450 102nd Avenue, Surrey”)
Do some quick research on your employer prior to starting work. Having a good overall understanding of the company or organization as a whole, and how you fit into the picture tells your employer that you care about the work and, in doing so, it can also help situate you into your new role.
1-2 Days Before
Plan out what you will be wearing your first day, from hairstyle to footwear. Looking my best often helps me feel my best and perform better at work!
Pack your Bag
Pack what you might need a day before, so if you realize you’re missing something, it’s not too late to do a quick run to the store. I usually bring a:
Water bottle - To stay hydrated
Notebook & Pen - When I have commitments in multiple courses or jobs, one way I find I stay organized is by dedicating one notebook to each workplace or course. I would use that notebook to not only take notes in, but as my daily planner to jot down to-do’s for the day. When I worked full-time, I preferred to have a separate notebook dedicated to note-taking, and another for my daily to-do’s. Everyone works differently, so feel free to do what works best for you.
Planner - I use my phone’s business calendar function as weekly to monthly planner, but if you prefer a paper notebook or planner for this, you can certainly use either of these instead.
Snacks - Pack some healthy snacks so you can refuel properly (See Health Canada on making healthy food choices. In your first week, you can suss out local spots to eat and gauge what the norm is for your office environment. Lunchtime is a great opportunity to connect with your colleagues - Check out this article on why eating with your co-workers can be beneficial.
Lunch - Packing your lunch can not only make it easier to eat healthier (by choosing healthier options), but a great way to save money. Whether you bring a lunch or buy one, lunch is a great time to get to know your colleagues!
Prepare yourself mentally for your first day and week in anticipation that there will be a ton of new information, names and faces, rules and learning! Take the evening easy and relax. Do what works best for you!
Get Your Sleep
Go to bed early! Being well-rested, I become an information sponge and can not only retain information better, but find I am more creative and more likely to come up with better ideas. If I’m anticipating a big day where I’ll need a lot of energy, I like to get at least 7.5 or 8 hours of sleep. See tips on how to get a good nap from this guide on the OLC.
Your First Day
Wake Up Early
Allow extra time in your usual daily routine. If you’re a breakfast person, give yourself more than enough time to eat a wholesome breakfast. Fruit, oatmeal, toast and yogurt are some of my favourites in the morning! Oatmeal is a great choice for breakfast because as a slow-burning carbohydrate, it will give you sustained energy right through until lunch time.
Extra Travel Time
You’ll be more relaxed knowing that you've allowed extra time to get where you need to go, and that any unforeseen delays (late buses, morning rush hour traffic, getting stuck behind a train, running out of gas, difficulties finding parking) won’t be a problem!
Practice Your Introductions
We all know it can be a little nerve-wracking to meet an entire new office of people in one day. Just be yourself! Think about writing down names, titles/roles and interesting facts/hobbies of your new coworkers, especially if you have a hard time remembering. Knowing people’s names and following up on previous conversations can help build stronger relationships sooner and show people that you genuinely care about getting to know them!
If you’re more of an introvert, a useful tip someone gave me once is to think of a few questions or even an introduction that might lead into an interesting conversation such as “Hi, I don’t think we’ve met, I’m (your name, then shake their hand). I’m the new Marketing and Communications Co-op student.” And if they seem interested in conversing, follow-up with “What do you do here?”
Anticipating questions you might be asked can also be helpful and can help avoid being caught off guard. Some questions I’ve been asked on my first day include “What’s your specialty? What do you do? What do you study?” –most of these questions have been related to how I got the position, what my role is, and what I think about it so far.
And that’s it! For me, I’ve always found that planning ahead avoids stress, but that being said, not all the preparation in this article is needed if you really find yourself in a pinch. Life can be unpredictable and sometimes it’s okay to go off-script! All in all, you’ve landed an awesome opportunity and are in for a great learning experience which is totally worth being excited about. Be yourself and let the pieces fall where they may!
Update: The links and references on this blog were cleaned up and updated as of December 2021.