Of course, many people have a dream job; you’re probably thinking of a few already. Maybe some sort of international corporation? Or a world-renowned research firm? Co-op is a great way to get a foot in the door, which is why these big companies are so sought after.
But remember in the end, co-op is about the experience. Don’t only try out for the big guys; look at the mid-sized firms too. There are quite a few firms out there that can grow your skills as much as any other, and you’ll learn a lot along the way. Before you hang your head over why you didn’t get that internship at NASA, there are a few things in particular that people sometimes overlook when they’re hunting for their co-op job.
1. It’s Not Just Where You Worked, it’s Also What you Did
Let’s say you DID want that rocket scientist co-op at NASA. Oops, you didn’t get it. Are you doomed?
Well first off, if you don’t succeed, try again. But remember, while names sound great, they aren’t everything. Some people look only at big companies just for that reason and forget to investigate the details of what they’re actually doing.
For example, a friend of mine worked at a government agency he always wanted, but it was mostly general administrative work. Yes, he got the job he desired, but when he graduated and it came time to apply for full-time work in his actual field, he found himself in stiff competition with others who actually had relevant experience. If you didn’t get the job you wanted, don’t just settle for any random odd job at the firm you want because it’s not going to be a free pass later on. Instead, try to consider why you came short, and be more strategic.
2. Smaller Teams Might Mean More Volume & Variety
“More work, now wait a minute!” you might be thinking. But stop and think about it: the whole point of co-op is about getting experience in the workplace. If you left your job knowing little more about it than when you came in, in the end, was it worth it? Don’t waste the opportunity doing something boring, find something that makes you ask questions, because that’s certainly a clue that you’ve learned something new.
Mid-sized firms can sometimes provide you with great experience in this regard because of the size of the organization. With a smaller pool of staff and infrastructure, individual workers are often given higher responsibility or more varied duties, things that can help bolster your skill set.
At my co-op, I had the opportunity to take care of the accounting at 5 separate branch offices myself. Later on, I even had the opportunity to team up with new accountants in the organization and show them the ropes. The learning opportunities were immense, and the skills I picked up were incredibly helpful particularly as a student.
As many other articles have pointed out, reaching a goal is not always a straight line; it’s okay to have a specific goal in mind, but it’s also okay to take time to work your way towards what you want. Making sure you get the right experience is far more important.
3. Don’t Knock It Till You’ve Tried it; a Unique Experience Can Change your Perspective
I know it can be uncomfortable if you’re faced with something different - sometimes very different from what you’re used to. However, don’t forget that now is the perfect time to boost your experience as much as possible, so that you know what you like and don’t like.
I know one part of my job was different; commutes were expected, but it turned out that I would need to travel to different offices every day of the week, something that I had never done before. But I tried it out regardless, because I felt that I would learn something, particularly when I saw what I would be responsible for.
Nearly a year on, my work terms are wrapping up, it’s become something unique that I liked about the job. Especially when I was new, it was actually quite refreshing to see different offices and work with a diverse range of people every day– the first month flew right by. Don’t let some aspects of the job hold you back if you’ve never tried it; you never know what you might end up liking.
4. You’ll Get to Know the Team Much Better
Despite the fact that not everyone is in the same room at the time, over my work term I’ve gotten to know or interact with far more people and work with them more closely than at many other places. In the offices I worked at, I can think of only 1 or 2 people in total who I haven’t had the opportunity to chat with. It’s a lot easier to work in these environments, as everyone knows how to work effectively with each other. And of course, when problems come up, it’s certainly a lot less intimidating asking for help from someone you know, rather than a faceless manager from some department above.
Doing co-op is a great way to understand the workplace, and get some valuable experience under your belt. Of course, aim for what you want! However, keeping these in mind when you’re mulling your options will make sure that even if you don’t get that internship at NASA, you’re still certain to walk away with the experience that you need. Who knows, if you end up liking the company, it might even be all you need.