Finding Light at the End of the Co-op Tunnel: Dealing with Co-op Failures and Expectations in the 2020 Pandemic

Finding Light at the End of the Co-op Tunnel: Dealing with Co-op Failures and Expectations in the 2020 Pandemic

By: John Luu
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2020 has been a monumental, stressful year- we’re living through both a global pandemic and a social uprising. It’s been difficult, overwhelming, stressful, draining, and the list continues. Adding to my final Co-op job search was a lesson in perseverance that has plunged me into the unknown.

ACT 1: The calm before the storm

[February & March 2020; A starry-eyed senior SFU Co-op student seeking to finish his academic journey with a bang]

I only applied to one Co-op position. I went through hoops and bounds and made it to the final round of interviews for my dream Co-op position! It was perfect and everything I wanted to experience for my third and final Co-op term at SFU! I thought that my resumé looked polished, my cover letter seemed compelling, and the several interviews I had for the position went great! BUT I didn’t get it, and I made a mistake. I put all my expectations on one position when I should’ve applied to multiple.

So, I was of course heartbroken and devastated [cue the melancholic playlist], and I had to quickly find an alternate plan for the summer. I knew I wanted to complete one last Co-op before graduation and there weren’t any classes I wanted to enroll in. Simultaneously, COVID was spreading fast. The stakes are high.

ACT 2: The laborious work of Co-op hunting during a pandemic

[April 2020; The pandemic exploded, and everyone is quarantined and confined within their spaces]

Co-op positions and postings for Summer were dropping like flies. The promise of a brighter future for students seemed bleak, and opportunities only lingered for about a week. Despite everything, I applied to as many positions as possible and went through several online interviews. At the end of the month, I didn’t get any offers.

ACT 3: A wild shot in the dark illuminated the room

[May 2020; As quarantine continues, you see your peers getting opportunities and offers left and right]

May seemed like the end of me; my quarantine days consisted of Animal Crossing: New Horizons, self-loathing, and YouTube. But everything changed when the CMNS Co-op team sent out final calls for last-minute Co-op positions. The Urban Studies grad program at SFU was looking for a web designer to help with their website redesign. I read through the job description and it seemed perfect! One of my learning outcomes was to gain web design and management experience, and this special project position seemed perfect for my situation! BUT, the job requirements didn’t exactly match my skill set- I’d say it was a 50% match. I was hesitant to apply because I was so sure that I wouldn’t get the position. However, I had two hours before the short deadline, and I thought, ‘what do I have to lose? Maybe a few hours of prep and interview time? Not bad.’

I applied.

I got a response.

I interviewed.

I waited.

I got the job.


ACT 4: A new hope

[Summer 2020; Working from home and learning new skills all while being surrounded by plants and the beautiful, warm summer sun.]

Good things can come from the unexpected. After my past 2 Co-op experiences and the valuable feedback I got from my peers and supervisors, I knew exactly the type of confidence and enthusiasm I want to bring to my final Co-op. This time around, I wanted to be more proactive and speak up more. And I did that.

I’m grateful that I got the opportunity to learn and work with web design and management; I spent the entire summer redesigning the Urban Studies website and even helped create assets and content. At this point, the work doesn’t feel like work, it feels like I’m working on a carefully crafted, creative project of my own, and I’m motivated to do the best job that I can. Additionally, I received two extensions from my employer to continue my time with Urban Studies. I’m ecstatic because I wanted to spend more time with website management and maintenance- three months is just too little!

My takeaway? Take a chance! If you have the vigour, then your determination and eagerness will shine through and impress your employers. Don’t give up! 



Beyond the Article

Posted on December 16, 2020