Career Guidance For Rookies: A Q & A with a Coop Student

Career Guidance For Rookies: A Q & A with a Coop Student

By: Julie Nguyen
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I am sure most of you at one point in time were or will have to make a major life decision: choosing a suitable career path. I remember asking myself more than a hundred times: “How do successful people choose their career path? Did/do they ever change their career? Do they ever regret what they had chosen? What did they do to gain experience?” and so forth. To me, these questions are very broad and the answers vary, depending on each person’s experience.

The following is a summary of the Q & A session led by a moderator with Julie- a coop student as one of the panelist.

Q: How did you choose your career path?

A: During my third Co-op term at Teck Resources Ltd. as a Human Resources Assistant Co-op Student, I was involved in the orientation day of a program called High School Work Experience. This program aims to provide high school students with unpaid week-long work experience at the office as part of their career preparation program. On orientation day, I was one of the two Co-op students who was invited to participate in a panel discussion with the high school students. We had the chance to share how we decided our career paths, what advice we would provide to people who are searching for a suitable job, and share our thoughts about the Co-op program.

Q: How did you choose your career path? Were there any other careers that you were interested in?

A: When I came to Canada, I did not know which field I would like to build my career in. As my parents are business professionals, they suggested that I enroll in the Business program. Looking back at my own personal strengths, I could see myself as being passionate about helping people. I am good at building relationships, interested in observing people’s strengths and opportunities and if possible, help them to be better. This is one of the key reasons why I chose Human Resources (HR) as my career path.

For a long time I was thinking about going into Hospitality. However, I did not feel I was ready to be involved in such an industry. Mainly because I thought my customer service skills would need to be developed further in order to follow that career path. If time permits, I may take some related courses or go to a networking event to learn more about the industry.

Q: What advice would you give to a student deciding on their career path?

A: Everyone has their own ways to find out which career path would be suitable for them. To me, working as a HR Assistant Co-op student, has given me a chance to test and confirm whether Human Resources is a suitable career. Through self-evaluation as well as feedback from my supervisor and colleagues, I was also able to identify my strengths and opportunities, as well as which skills and abilities I would like to develop. This would help significantly in my career planning process once I have finished my degree and I am officially ready to step into the workforce.

Connecting with people who are starting their professional career search and sharing experiences is another way to explore what your options are. I learned more from branching out and going to different networking events than by doing online research. This does not mean that online research is unimportant. However, it would be more efficient if we could monitor our on-screen time to make valuable connections, which may lead us to more opportunities.

Q: What is Co-op? What did you have to do to join your Co-op program?

A: An oversimplified definition of a Co-op is “getting your foot in the door”. A better version of it is an opportunity for both you and your potential employers to explore and see if you are a fit for each other. What I realized is that working as a Co-op Student offers a “sneak- peak” to the professional world. This opportunity provides the answer to the question of whether the field, the industry and the career path is right for you.

Each institution would have a different Co-op Program and different requirements. Some universities require a minimum GPA or number of credits. Some offer a series of workshops that would help students prepare for Co-op terms. Getting in touch with the Co-op department of the school is a good way to keep yourself updated with the program requirements.

Q: What are the benefits of participating in a co-op?

A: There were three significant benefits that I saw after my co-op terms.

  1. First, having co-op experience would differentiate you from other people holding an equivalent degree. This would be a major advantage to students stepping into the workforce.
  2.  Second, during the term, I found that what I learnt in school makes sense, and the knowledge is applicable to professional settings.
  3. Third, coming back to school after the co-op work term, I  feel more confident with taking courses since I have had related experience and have seen different possible situations.

One of the things I found very helpful during my co-op time was that do not be afraid to ask why. We often so eager to learn the what and the how but sometimes we forget to learn why. By exploring the root of what has been done so far we can understand why things are the way they are, and maybe we might be able to come up with a better solution or a more effective execution for the current process. This is a great skill to have when stepping out to the workforce.

I believe not only high school students, but any students who are currently deciding their career paths, may also find it useful to participate in a coop. Having the opportunity to test-run working in a professional setting, I do feel myself being more confident with my choice of career path.

Beyond the Article

  • Connect with Julie on LinkedIn
  • Wondering if your employer is doing enough for your community? Julie addresses this here
  • Find out if co-op is worth it
  • Looking for a coop opportunity in the Business school? Start Here!


Posted on March 19, 2020