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SFU Co-op Student

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Kelly smiles next to a graphic that says, "Maximize Your Co-op".
Starting a new Co-op can be exciting, overwhelming and intimidating all at the same time. The key to flourishing in your new position is learning to maximize your work experience.

1.     Take initiative

Checked everything off your to-do list today? Now is your chance to pursue additional opportunities within the office. Broaden your professional skill set by taking on additional projects and gaining new experiences. Rather than twiddling your thumbs at your desk all day, let your supervisor know when you don’t have a lot on your plate and take the initiative to seek out new opportunities. Express your keen interest to learn by asking to sit in on meetings, work with different clients and shadow colleagues from different departments.

For example, every morning at the office, we hold a team-huddle to discuss daily goals, collaborate and communicate effective strategies. I take this opportunity to offer my colleagues a helping hand and take on new assignments, gaining exposure to all facets of the company. 

 2.     Request feedback

Constructive feedback is fundamental to the success of your Co-op. Check in with your supervisor throughout your work term to ensure that you are not only meeting but exceeding the expectations of your role. Half way through your co-op work term, an advisor will coordinate an on-site visit to check in with you and your supervisors on your progress thus far. Rather than waiting for that half-way period, take the initiative to approach your supervisor for feedback at an earlier stage in the game. Always be receptive and open to critique – feedback is invaluable.

 3.     Set Goals

The only thing more important than requesting feedback is learning how to receive it. Take note of the feedback you have received and create a list of professional objectives. Apply suggestions and strategies provided by your supervisor and keep track of what is most effective for you. I keep a journal to record the feedback I receive, the strategies I develop to apply said feedback and the final outcome to the novel approach I employ.

4.     Ask away

“The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge” – Thomas Berger

Tackle the unknown by asking questions. As a student you are not expected to be 100% confident and familiar with everything right off the bat - don’t be afraid to ask questions. Posed with a task you are unfamiliar with? Let your supervisor know! Gain a stronger grasp on the task at hand by asking your colleagues to further elaborate, explain or demonstrate. Whenever I am sitting in on a meeting or phone call, I jot down a list of questions for my supervisor that arise during the conversation. I find this to be the most effective way to catch on to new lingo, concepts or ideas that I am unfamiliar with.

5.     Network

Establish a strong working relationship with your supervisor and fellow colleagues within the office. Chances are, you will probably work with some inspiring people – given the appropriate opportunity, pick their brains! Grasp a more comprehensive understanding of what it takes to move forward in your industry by listening to everyone’s unique story. I am always fascinated to hear more about my colleague’s background and how they got to where they are today.  After you complete your co-op, stay in touch with your colleagues on LinkedIn.

Keep in mind that at the end of the day, your Co-op experience is entirely dependent on your efforts; you will only walk away with what you contribute to the role. It is ultimately your responsibility

SFU Co-op Student
Connect with Kelly on Twitter and LinkedIn

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