Accepting a Co-op Offer That’s Not Your First Choice

You’ve started the application process for co-op, spent hours digging through NUCareers, and finally found a job that you really want. You apply, wait anxiously for a reply, while applying to other second-tier choices in your mind. Weeks pass and you interview for a few other jobs, but you keep thinking about that dream job you found. Then you find out the position has been filled by someone else. A tragedy! What do you do now?

This was exactly the situation I was in during my first co-op cycle. I didn’t even get an interview and I was pretty upset about it. Fortunately, I ended up finding a co-op in a field that honestly I wasn’t very interested in, but actually turned out really well. That rejection is definitely disheartening, and your co-op advisor will probably have told you that there are a lot of factors that go into the selection process and many of them are simply out of your control. You might shake your head and start to go down the rabbit hole of reflecting on what you believe were your shortcomings. Well, I’m here to tell you that your co-op advisor is right. Yes, there may have been someone who was simply more qualified than you. But your resume might also just have been at the bottom of the pile, very similar to the one who got the job, and they hired the first person they thought would be fit for the job. Unfortunately, you’ll never know why you weren’t chosen and there’s simply nothing you can do about it. What you can do, however, is find another co-op that’ll teach you loads.

My first co-op wasn’t in the field that I’m interested in pursuing long-term. BUT I still ended up having an amazing experience and now continue to work there part time. There is a lot to learn from any job, even if it’s not exactly in the field that you want to go into. I developed my professional skills way more than I had anticipated, and gained valuable knowledge and skills that I wouldn’t have learned at the job I originally wanted. I had the opportunity to do weekly presentations for employees at all levels of the company and really practice my public speaking skills. These are responsibilities I wouldn’t have had the chance to do at the other job as it was mostly research based. I also was given the opportunity to run a long-term project on my own with little guidance, when I was originally only supposed to assist my coworkers. This allowed me to work with people from a variety of departments and present my findings at the end of it. I was even given the task of teaching the summer intern about the process and supervise her project. Oh, and I got the chance to meet some amazing people that fully support the fact that my interests are not within their field, but wanted to help me find my way there in any way they could.

Your co-op advisor will tell you that co-op is what you make of it, and–as cliché as it sounds–it really is true. If you show that you’re willing to learn, put in the effort, and can take on more responsibility, your supervisor and coworkers will happily load off some of their work to you and give you challenging tasks. Take advantage of this opportunity! And, if you’re still thinking about that dream co-op, you can always apply there for your second co-op. That’s all the advice I have for you: good luck with your co-op searches and don’t get discouraged!


Check out our other blog posts about co-op: