A lot of students can be hesitant to do co-op. Maybe it’s the costly fees that are preventing you from signing up, or maybe your friend had a really bad placement. I had a lot of the same fears before I registered for co-op at Simon Fraser University. But since enrolling as a co-op student, I’ve had the opportunity to attend invaluable workshops and been given access to jobs that I could never have found on my own.
I’m currently doing a co-op with Insight Global Education and feel that I’m getting the chance to actually use what I learned in classes, all while gaining valuable experience in a field that can feel impossible to break into.
So while the fears about co-op may be valid, here are the top 5 reasons why co-op will help you stand out above everyone else as you find a job post-graduation.
1) Graduate with Real World Experience
Successfully completing a co-op program means that you will graduate with one to one-and-a-half years worth of relevant work experience in your desired field. For someone like me, who’s looking to break into the field of international development, this is essential. Many of the amazing jobs or careers that are out there require previous experience that can feel almost impossible to get without the help of the co-op department.
For instance, during my own job search, I didn’t know where to begin to apply for jobs with the government. With the access I have to the co-op job board, opportunities with the federal government and internships with consulates have become easier to find.
These are positions that are specifically created for co-op students and give you the chance to work in industries and roles that you may not otherwise have had access to. Finding these specific opportunitites is crucial for a field like international development, where oftentimes it can be difficult to get hands on, meaningful experiences before graduating.
2) Go Abroad
Another way that co-op can help you stand out in the post-grad job hunt is by giving you the chance to work internationally in your desired field. By doing an international co-op work term you can gain relevant experience in an international setting with corporations and opportunities that you may not have at home.
This is especially important for students looking to work in international development, but is also an asset to students for any field, as experience abroad can elevate you above the competition by giving you unique credentials and skills.
Organizing your work term through co-op can also help you to navigate some of the complicated logistics of working abroad. Figuring out how to get a visa or how to find housing can be daunting on your own, but when you do it through co-op, there are advisors availble to help you.
Co-op advisors can assist with everything from finding the job to finding a place to live. Doing an international co-op means you may also be eligible for financial aid or grants from your university, which can help alleviate some of the financial strain of living away from home.
3) Make Connections
The connections you make through co-op can be incredibly helpful. Maybe your supervisor offers you permanent employment or one of your colleagues can connect you to your dream job. It’s important to seek out and maintain meaningful connections during your work terms, as these networking opportunities will help you in the future.
The nice thing about work terms is that unlike normal jobs, the relationship between employee and employer is much more focused on mentorship. Your supervisor can be a great source of advice and information, so make sure you are taking the initiative to ask insightful questions whilst putting in the effort to retain the information you are learning.
Being proactive and seeking connections will also help you. If your office has after work socials, attending a few and being positive and professional will help you build up a personal network that you can draw on after graduation. Make sure that you volunteer to attend events on behalf of your company as well; you never know who you may meet!
4) Build Your Resume
Co-op work terms can also help you to build up your resume by allowing you to have variable hard and soft skills that will set you apart from everyone else. By exploring the different opportunities each work term offers, you will graduate with a unique skill set on your resume while having experiences in different fields and industries. Doing an international co-op looks especially great on a resume.
In my own co-op term at Insight, I’ve gained several new skills to add to my resume and I have found it helpful to keep track of them as I go through the work term, as to not forget anything once I'm done. Ask your supervisor to read over your resume and ask them for advice on how to phrase your new skills and experiences. They can help you make sure that you are not missing any important details.
5) Be Different
Co-op will help you stand out from your peers after graduation. You will have varied experiences and opportunities that are not limited to traditional student jobs like retail or fast food. In addition to this, you will have gained skills and knowledge from your co-op workshops and your supervisors that you otherwise might not have. Interviews, resumes and cover letters are daunting enough but through co-op you will have access to resources and workshops that can provide helpful advice.
The experiences you gain, the skills you form and the people you meet during co-op will help you stand out. This is especially important in fields like international development where jobs can be difficult to find. It can be hard to stick out in a pile of resumes but co-op, whether it be local or international, can help you do that.
If you are interested in a similar opportunity but don't want to commit to a full co-op program which can be costly and time consuming consider applying for the Semester in Development, which has many of the same benefits of co-op and gives you the opportuntiy to live and work abroad in the global south.