What are your thoughts on the co-op program? Pros? Cons?
I believe that Co-op was a fantastic learning experience. It is definitely a lot of hard work, so it teaches you to persevere and it toughens you up because that’s how job-hunting really is, whether you’re seeking a co-op/internship or a full-time position. Co-op helped build my knowledge of the job market and allowed me to develop practical skills that I continue to use even after completing my required work-terms.
How did you go about finding your first Co-op placement?
My first co-op placement was with an electrical system operator in Ontario, as a Student Analyst in their Aboriginal Relations department. It was mostly an office job and I thought I’d never have the opportunity to work in a corporate organization because it wasn’t something I saw myself doing in the future. However, I highly enjoyed my time as a Student Analyst. I received many opportunities to attend conferences where I was able to meet and network with various Aboriginal organizations. It was definitely an unforgettable experience.
What did you expect VS what you encountered?
I didn’t expect to be working with an electrical system operator for my first co-op. As a Linguistics Co-op and French double major, it was something completely unrelated to the content I was learning in my courses. However, obtaining this completely unexpected co-op position was a blessing in disguise, as I was able to really experience being out of my comfort zone and to be open-minded to the unfamiliar. I was part of the Aboriginal Relations department – where I helped maintain a database on Aboriginal communities. It was quite a unique work environment.
Do you think it helped improve you as a person?
Although I am constantly improving as a person, co-op has definitely helped me come a long way from where and who I was at the start of university. I would say that the biggest improvement has to be my communication and interpersonal skills. I am definitely more outgoing and confident in my ability to speak in front of large groups of people, whether they’re adults or children. I am also more comfortable speaking up and taking leadership positions within a team, which is something I have always struggled with. In general, my co-op experiences have made me more confident in myself and what I’m capable of.
Any advice for other co-op students?
You’re at that point in your life where everything is dynamic, everything is in transition. It’s definitely a good thing to have a plan about where you want your life to go, but be flexible. We never know what the future holds for us and although it can be scary to have an element of uncertainty in life, that’s what makes it interesting.