Congratulations! You have been accepted into the SFU co-op program, completed BOL training, finished all your workshops and now you are finally ready to tackle myExperience to secure the co-op placement of your dreams! Not so fast...what many first-time co-op seekers forget is that the first placement is largely the most difficult to secure. After a challenging 15 weeks, 14 applications and 5 interviews later I finally landed the co-op job of a lifetime! I have compiled a list of what I consider are the most crucial tips to securing your first co-op placement.
1. Your Co-op Advisor is your Best Friend
I cannot express enough gratitude towards my co-op advisor Sara Sethna, who supported me throughout my entire application process. Take advantage of the resources provided to you through your Co-op department. Set up mock-interviews, have your cover letters proofed, request to read old work reports and check in with advisors for general application advice...they are there to help you succeed!
2. Welcome Every Interview Opportunity that Comes your Way
Regardless of whether or not you are selected as a successful candidate for the position, you gain countless benefits through every interview experience. While co-op interviews may initially be a daunting undertaking, the only way to become more comfortable with the process is to gain confidence through exposure. I maintained an interview journal where I reflected upon each interview experience and took note of the questions I was asked, the responses I gave and how I felt that they were received. You know yourself better than anyone else…self-assessment is a crucial component to future achievement in the workplace.
3. Be Flexible
Broaden your horizons: consider positions outside your faculty and out of town. Drawn towards marketing positions, I was initially intimidated to apply for Co-ops generally held by business students. After finding myself shortlisted for several marketing positions, I gained the confidence I needed to pursue business co-ops and I am so thankful that I decided to step out of the comfort zone.
4. Learn to be Persistent and Positive
I would be lying if I said didn’t have my heart broken by a couple of companies after finding out that I was not a successful candidate for my dream job after coming very far along in the interviewing process. Always keep in mind that co-op is competitive… don’t let yourself be discouraged by rejection. Persistence and positivity are key!
5. Dedicate the Time
I never truly understood the demands of the application process until I was in the thick of it. Avoid getting overwhelmed by managing your time effectively. I dedicated 8-10 hours weekly, researching companies, composing cover letters and tailoring my resume. Keep in mind that co-op employers do look at your GPA (along with many other elements) as part of your application package... don’t forget to make schoolwork a priority!
While Co-op hunting certainly has its merits, the rewards are endless. I am a firm believer that co-op work experience is the best way to harvest industry skills, network – make connections, get your foot in the door and to determine where your strengths, talents and passions lie. While just a month into my first co-op interning at an advertising agency I have already begun to develop a strong set of professional communication and marketing skills while falling in love with an industry I had never previously considered exploring. Best of luck to first time co-op hunters!