Wondering if co-op is the right option for you? This week's discussion will help you think it through.
By Katlynd Poulton
Are you trying to decide whether or not to enroll in a post-secondary program that offers co-op? Are you unsure of the differences between basic programs and programs that offer work terms? If the answer is yes, you've come to the right place. If you don't know very much about programs that offer co-operative education terms, you should start researching the different opportunities that are available to you. Co-operative education programs are an extremely beneficial opportunity for students to build their professional network and obtain valuable work experience. Co-op is an engaging experience that allows students to be involved on-the-job rather than simply observing or taking notes. If you're not sure whether or not to take a co-op program, continue reading and find out why when co-op is available it IS the best option!
Check it out
If you don't know much about the benefits of co-operative education, where its offered and for what programs, do some research. Look into post-secondary institutions that offer co-op programs and check out some student reviews. This should help you determine whether or not a co-operative education program is offered for your career choice and if it is the best fit for you. Not every school offers the same programs, so make sure you're checking multiple resources and talk to people (ex: guidance counselor, teachers, student alumni, etc.) who can help you make the best decision for your learning needs.
Talk to Others
Find some students in your chosen field of study and talk to them about co-op; find out what they liked and disliked about their experiences and get a sense of what co-op is like from a students perspective. At your college or university there are faculty and administrative staff that can help you better understand your co-op opportunities and will help set you up to be successful! Don't be afraid to start networking, this will help build your confidence, professional networks and get you thinking about your future employment before you have to apply. There are plenty of people willing to talk about how GREAT co-op is and how beneficial it can be regarding skill-based learning and training.
Find the Right Employer
Meaning, the right employer for YOU! Find a job that sparks your interest at a place where you could picture yourself integrating into. Sometimes this can be difficult, so make sure you look at as many options as possible. Research different employers, find out their missions and values and what drives their employees to work hard and succeed. If you can get a sense for what the job may be like, you're likely to feel more confident while applying and interviewing because you'll have an idea of what to expect. If you've done solid research, you should be able to find a good fit for you!
Take It All In
Show up prepared everyday, ready to take in anything you might learn. Not only will this help you stay on top of your game but it will also demonstrate your initiative to your employer. Don't forget, usually a co-op work term requires you to complete a minimum of 420 hours but you CAN complete a longer term if your employer is willing to keep you past 12-15 weeks and as long as it doesn't interfere with your next semester! There will be a lot you can learn from your employer and co-workers while on your work term so make sure you listen and take notes - these learning experiences are meant to help you grow as a professional while expanding your knowledge and skills. Co-operative education is a superior learning experience that most students are very grateful for.
This is the only time in your life when you will have an employer be THIS understand and helpful. Co-op employers are interested in your future, want to see you be successful and would like for you to be a temporary asset to them while you are employed. Make sure you take the time to appreciate the service the employer is doing for you! Without co-op, students would not have a chance to have in-field experience within their program prior to graduating but co-op makes this possible! Co-operative education is much different than sitting in class, learning. Co-op is a chance for students to test the waters, put their knowledge to work and truly get a sense of what the working world is like (outside of the part-time, fast food or retail jobs that most of us have had once or twice...) so it is critical you absorb all the information you can and build a strong network of professional around you while fulfilling your work terms.
Be An Ambassador
If you are a firm believer in the benefits of co-op and would like to share your experiences with others, become a co-op ambassador and tell others why cooperative education is so superior. Get to know other people who have had great co-op experiences and talk to them about what they learned - who knows, maybe you'll learn something new from them!