STUDENT VOICE

A Guide to Getting the Most Out of Your Next Co-op

After you finish your first co-op, the excitement of the co-op program may start to dwindle given the high amount of stress that comes with applying, interviewing, and deciding on a co-op. You may also grow weary of going through all the motions of the co-op process, especially if you’ve done it once or twice before. Luckily enough, I’ve received some advice in my time as an Explore Program student and Peer Mentor that has helped me keep a fun, fresh mindset for the working world (and for life in general):

  1. Connect with everyone!
    While you might not have your co-op advisor actively encouraging you to network with everyone, you should still try to befriend everyone you can. Having some friendly faces around the office is always a plus, and will ensure that you always have someone to talk to during down time. Not to mention, it’s a lot less intimidating to network once you have a good amount of professional experience under your belt. Coworkers are always interested in hearing about my previous work and love to talk about their own professional experiences!
  2. Try new things!
    This might seem obvious, but I’ve found that my second and third co-ops have been the best time to really branch out and work on projects that I would have never tried one or two years ago. I’m lucky enough to have done co-ops that constantly encourage employees to try anything they’re interested in and learn new skills. Even just saying “Oh, that project sounds cool!” can lead to a team member looping you in and seeing if you want to join the team. One day I expressed interest in a podcast exploration committee during a strategy meeting. The next day, the team leader reached out to me and asked if I wanted to be in charge of putting together a research deck for the project proposal, as well as be a core team member. The project wasn’t related to my main responsibilities, but because I showed some interest, I got an opportunity to try something completely out of my comfort zone.
  3. It’s okay to be uncomfortable!
    It’s so okay to not be 100% confident in your abilities or role. Diving into the professional world headfirst is overwhelming, especially when you do it in the middle of your college career. I’ve definitely felt increasingly comfortable expressing struggles I’m facing with every co-op. Even in my first co-op, it took me a few months to be comfortable with quickly admitting that I was struggling with a project or that I had no confidence in a certain skill set. Now, I’m much quicker to go to my manager and ask for help with prioritizing projects, reaching out to higher-ups, or learning programs that I’ve never encountered before. As I said before, stepping out of your comfort zone can be so rewarding and will give you a lot more confidence in tackling problems and working in new environments. The whole co-op process is designed to be unfamiliar and to put you in a different ecosystem than the classroom in order to help you grow. I’ve often found that my favorite projects and responsibilities were the ones that I was initially scared to tackle.

Thanks for reading this and good luck in your co-op journey!

 

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