The Unsuccessful Co-op Search

“A 25-year-old kid is not going to have the seniority of 30 years.”

     – My statistics professor (trying to explain the dangers of extrapolation).

But that sentence got me thinking. From the viewpoint of a student, it feels like that’s exactly what employers want from us after graduation. Gaining experience is one of the many reasons that people join the co-op program at UVic.

But what if I told you that not everybody’s search goes like this and that sometimes students don’t get a co-op during their first job search term.

Imagine you’ve just completed your IPP (Introduction to Professional Practice) course, and you’re excited to start applying to jobs. So you get started on applying to jobs and maybe even have a few interviews. The co-op search is going pretty well for your first job search term.

But your excitement wears down after four months. Because after four months of perfecting your resume and cover letter, applying and interviewing for co-ops, you’re left with nothing.

An entire semester of co-op searching alongside your classes with nothing to show for it other than the rejections you’ve received (if even that, most employers won’t hesitate to ghost you). It can be pretty soul-crushing, especially if you compare yourself to others.

You’ll probably blame yourself, say that you should’ve tried harder or that you shouldn’t have tried at all.

But worst of all, you might even decide to give up.

I remember when I didn’t get a position during my first co-op search, it sucked. Especially since it’s not something people talk about. But eventually, I realized that those four months would’ve been a waste if I hadn’t learned something from the experience and my mistakes.

So what tips do I have for anyone starting their first work search term?

1. Start applying to co-op positions earlier in the semester

Most students are chronic procrastinators, so the number of applicants for positions during the first few weeks of the co-op search is usually low. Take advantage of this and start applying to jobs early.

student calendar

2. Apply to anything you’re interested in

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you’re “not good enough” for a position. It’s just not worth taking yourself out of the running before the employer even has the chance to review the applicants.

3. Don’t compare yourself to others

You are not the same as anyone else. The experiences you want to gain and the knowledge you want to learn from co-op are unique. Your idea of a dream co-op is different from somebody else’s. There is no point in comparing apples to oranges.

Looking back, I think that by not getting a co-op during my first work search term I was able to learn more. I experienced what it’s like to look for a job, I learned how to accept rejections, but most importantly I learned how to fall down and get back up again.

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