Now’s the perfect time to learn about co-op and what it can do for you
Guest post by Carly Grabher
“I want to get the experience,” he said, “but what if there aren’t enough positions to go around?”
What is co-op, anyway?
At the time, I didn’t know what co-op was, let alone why my friend was worried. Since then, I’ve learned a ton—I’m actually working as a co-op student for UVic (meta, I know). Here are the basics:
- Co-op is a program offered here at UVic in almost every academic program area—it’s a way to gain paid (yes, paid!) work experience while you’re still a student.
- You get to try out different types of jobs related to what you’re studying to make sure you’re on the right track, plus learn how to look for work and make a good impression on employers.
- Some programs, like business and engineering, include co-op as part of the curriculum, while most other co-op programs are optional.
- Most co-op programs ask that you complete three to four work terms; there’s also a “co-op light” option called the Work Experience Program where you’d complete one or two.
- Usually, you can apply to co-op at the start of your second year.
Separating fact from fiction
When I hit second year, I stopped by Co-op and Career Info Day to figure out if my friend was right to be worried. I asked a ton of questions:
“Can you guarantee that I will get hired after graduation? While no one can guarantee anything, grads do report that co-op has a positive effect on their work search when they graduate.
“Is it a fact that I’ll get paid more than my peers after graduation because I did co-op and they didn’t?” While it’s not a fact, generally speaking co-op grads earn higher wages than grads who didn’t do co-op.
These answers still didn’t convince me, but looking back, I wish I’d asked more questions like:
- What are some sample co-op jobs in my program?
- If I opt not to do co-op, how else can UVic help me figure out what I want to do as a career?
- If I’m concerned I can’t commit to three co-op terms, can I just do one?”
What if you don’t like co-op?
This was the big issue for me: commitment. I was scared that once I dipped my toe into co-op, I’d be stuck and miss other work and volunteer opportunities.
I talked about this with my co-op coordinator (there’s one in your program area!), and she assured me that if I tried one co-op work term and didn’t like the experience I wouldn’t need to do another. I would still have the experience under my belt.
Taking the leap—my first co-op position
I was sold and applied to the program. In the second half of my second year, I took the Introduction to Professional Practice course (IPP), a prep course that teaches you how to write a good résumé, how to conduct yourself in a job interview and much more before you start to look for your first co-op work term.
With the encouragement of my co-op coordinator, Allison Benner, I decided to try sending out my résumé to a couple organizations. A week later, I had my first job interview. It was that straightforward.
The interview was a success, thanks to the work I put in preparing with my co-op coordinator and also the feedback received from a mock interview clinic. I ultimately turned down this first job offer but another one soon followed at the UVic Faculty Association, which I accepted.
What I’ve learned through co-op
My experience in my first co-op work term was excellent. I went in with the idea that I had about 30% of the qualifications for the job, but with the help of my supervisor I learned how to better manage projects and developed the skills for website design. I had such a good experience that I decided to do a second work term.
Needless to say, my ideas about the UVic co-op program were very misinformed. I wish I hadn’t latched onto the first piece of advice someone gave me and instead had gone straight to the source—luckily, you still can.
Come say hello on September 11
This Tuesday, September 11 in the SUB, discover Co-op and Career Info Day—an event where you can speak with co-op coordinators, career educators and even current co-op students all about co-op and career support.
They can tell you about networking, the types of co-op jobs that are available in your program and even the logistics of an international co-op—you ask, they’ll answer.
Don’t worry—co-op is great!
Participating in the co-op program has been the greatest blessing of my university career. I can say with absolute confidence that I have learned so much from my real-world experience, more than just classes could have given me. Now, as I see my graduation date growing nearer, I feel excited to enter into the working world with the skill set I developed thanks to co-op.
Not only is the application process itself, a great learning experience but eventually you will land a job that will inform you about what you do and don’t want to do in your career and develop skills that classroom lectures just can’t teach you.
Learn more at Info Day on September 11 from 10 – 3 in the SUB, or on the Co-Op and Career site!