How difficult is it to get a co-op?

scrabbleAfter completing four co-op terms and now on the verge of graduation, I thought it would be apt for me to write this blog post. I may not be a pro in securing the best co-ops but being in a program with a mandatory co-op program, I have at least gotten hold of some good do’s and don’ts.

I am in engineering, but I think the process of applying and securing a co-op is more or less the same for all disciplines.

Applying for a co-op for the first time can be a daunting task, but it’s absolutely normal to feel that way. I remember my first year when I applied for co-op. I was scared and didn’t do things right, which resulted in me not getting a co-op. I wish I had someone guiding me, or maybe reading a blog post about what I should or shouldn’t do would have been helpful. It can be difficult to get a co-op right after your first year but it is not impossible.

What should you do?

For starters, do your research and look for jobs that you are interested in. The best resource is the UVic Co-op Learning in Motion website.

Next, re-do your resume. I know I get too lazy to update my resume with new skills that I have developed, but it’s necessary. If you aren’t sure that your resume is up to the mark, Career Services holds free resume labs for all students every Tuesday (12-1:45 p.m.) and Thursday (10–11:45 a.m.) in McPherson Library, room 129.

careersNow that you have gotten your resume figured out, let’s tackle the big rock, your cover letter. I personally think this is the most important step. From my experience and interactions with different employers and human resource personnel, I have gotten a sense that your cover letter is what’s actually read.

If the employer finds your cover letter interesting, only then will they take a second look at your application. This is your one opportunity to show the world how awesome you are, so go ahead and brag about yourself. If there is a job that you really want to secure, send your cover letter to your co-op coordinator for a review.

That’s how I got my first co-op. I went to my co-op coordinator and I told her I really want this job, here’s my cover letter, and asked what I needed to work on. She provided me with some insightful comments and a week later I was called for an interview.

You know you are on the right track when you start getting interviews lined up. If that does not happen, it is time to take a step back and see what’s not right or seek help from professionals who are there to help you. Once everything is sorted it is time to put on the best professional clothes you own and make your way to the interview (of course this statement is only valid if it’s a face-to-face interview).

I enjoy giving an interview so it’s not that scary for me but I understand for some people it can be the most difficult step. The solution to this problem is preparation. The more prepared you are, the less nervous you will feel and there will be a higher chance of you securing a position. Check out the Career resource page for interview skills and sample questions that employer might ask you. There are tons of resource for free, so make use of them.

What not to do?

  • Don’t be too lazy to update your resume.
  • Start applying for jobs right away. Procrastination is a general trend that I have seen in most people, and trust me, I have been there. You wait for the first month to be over when you feel more comfortable in the semester and then look for jobs. This is where most people go wrong. The longer you wait, the fewer opportunities you have and the more competition you have to face, because just like you other people are being lazy as well.
  • Don’t use the same cover letter for all your jobs. I know people who apply for 25-30 jobs using the same generic cover letter for all of them. Sometimes you even forget to change the name of the company you are addressing your letter to, and that results in an automatic disqualification. If you are putting in the time to write a decent cover letter and have done your research, it automatically shows that you care about the job, so be proactive.

Getting your first co-op

It’s an incredible feeling to get your first co-op. I still to this day remember screaming when I got the e-mail that said “we want you.” So go ahead and apply for co-ops, make money, and experience the awesome feeling of finally getting what you want.


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