Co-op: Finding Value in Every Experience

As an Explore Program student, one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that there is value in every experience, and that identifying things you don’t like is just as important as finding those that you are passionate and excited about. Once I took this approach in my exploration, everything became a lot easier for me because there were takeaways in every single experience I had, including a co-op that was not the best fit for me.

A few months into my first co-op, I realized both the position and the industry were not a good fit for me in the long run. I was constantly frustrated and annoyed, and felt stuck in this six-month commitment that I couldn’t get out of. However, after some reflection, I decided to approach this experience with a growth mindset and specifically identify which parts of it were not a good fit. I knew this would allow me to look for a better fit in the future. Looking back, I have to say that I am very thankful for my first co-op experience. It was a transformative six months and, as I reflect on it, I can say I learned five big lessons while there:

  1. Always look for the positives. Even though I wasn’t incredibly excited about every single task I was expected to complete, there were some tasks that I found interesting. Focus on those, learn all you can, and do it all the best you can. If you focus on the positives and perform your job well, your responsibility will eventually increase and you will have more of those exciting and interesting tasks on your plate.
  2. Communicate with your manager. During my time there I also learned the importance of communication. I was lucky to have an understanding and accommodating team where I could voice my realization that the job wasn’t a good fit for me. When I learned to communicate this, the team was really good about helping me shape my experience to get the most out of those six months. Communicate often, ask for feedback, and share how you feel about the position and tasks at hand.
  3. Commitment is key. It is very important to commit and see opportunities through. Even if it’s not what you want to do the rest of your life, there is a sense of satisfaction in successfully completing your six-month placement and showing up every day ready to help the team to the best of your ability. Commitment becomes a habit, and that is the biggest transferrable skill you can take to any other job.
  4. Network. Practice purposeful networking. Talk to people and get to know their background and their story, and you will realize you are not the only one who has explored different paths or is currently on that journey. Leverage the experience of those around you to learn and shape your own experience. Co-op provides an amazing network of experienced people, use that to the shape your future and look for possible opportunities.
  5. Develop your transferrable skills. Once I realized I didn’t want to be in financial services for the rest of my life, I focused on building my transferrable skills. I realized that even though I wasn’t passionate about the subject matter, I was talking to clients, running reports, and gaining exposure to senior leaders; there is value in all of that. Practice your adaptability, communication, patience, problem solving and critical thinking skills. They will go with you wherever you choose to go, and this real-life experience is the most valuable thing you can take with you moving forward!

Furthermore, many of these lessons allowed me to reflect on what kind of Co-op I wanted next and to ask the right questions in my future interview processes. There is value in every single experience and identifying what you don’t like is just as important as identifying what you do: nothing has become more evident in my time at Northeastern. Happy exploring!


Check out our other blog posts about co-op: