When I landed my first co-op position, I was so excited (and a little bit relieved) to have finally found a job that would be a good fit. After months of looking through postings that didn’t suit my interests or skill set, this particular position seemed to be the perfect combination of things I knew I could do and new things I was excited to try.
I showed up to my first day on the job ready for action, keen to make a good first impression and prove myself to my supervisor and my new colleagues. Flash forward one month and I already felt as if I had hit a mental roadblock. It was my first co-op semester and I was already bored, how was I going to do this for three more months? Then it hit me – all this time I thought that I had already plateaued, when really I was the only person holding myself back from making the most of my co-op experience and enjoying my time at work.
Here’s how I learned to motivate myself and create opportunities to grow in this position:
1. Communicate With Your Supervisor
My supervisor and I kept a very open line of communication throughout my placement. In part, this was because I was keen to receive feedback and improve on my work throughout the semester. By being open with her I was also able to let her know exactly what kind of work I was looking for. She was able to find projects for me that she knew I would find interesting and that would help grow my design portfolio. By letting your supervisor know what you’re interested in and being open to new possibilities, you can create exciting opportunities for yourself and tailor your co-op experience to suit your own goals and ambitions.
2. Literally, Just Ask
For example, if there’s a project you would like to be a part of, just ask if you can be involved (the worst thing they can say is no). Even if they may not need another team member, asking to simply sit in on meetings and observe the process can help you learn so much. And who knows, as a fresh pair of eyes you might even be able to offer up suggestions that could really make an impact.
3. Turn Every Experience Into a Learning Opportunity
A lot of my job involved creating Prezi’s and other types of educational material for outreach and other events. While this may not have been my favourite part of the job, I realized that the information I was including on these slides was actually relevant to how I approached my own life and career. I started to see my work as an opportunity to try and make the most out of the information I was being given and to apply it to my own situation. Even if a project that you’re working on isn't particularly exciting, don’t let information go to waste simply because you weren’t expecting to learn anything.
Although your first co-op may be different from what you thought it would be, it can still be an amazing experience that can teach you about yourself and have a huge impact on your future. In the end, I realized that I had a lot to learn from my first placement, and that all I needed to do was open my mind.