How to Make the Best of Your Co-op Work Term

How to Make the Best of Your Co-op Work Term

By: Christina Luo
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After the exciting and terrifying process of applying to jobs, landing interviews, and finally accepting a job offer, I started to settle in to my new job in the Communication department of the Canadian Mental Health Association.

As I changed my email signature, reset my voicemail message, and checked off my daily to do list, I realized that exactly eight months before me, the previous co-op student in my role started off her first day in the exact same way. As the thirteenth co-op student under my current supervisor, it was easy for me to think of myself as just another Communication Intern who would swiftly be replaced and forgotten in eight months’ time. After all, my whole office was hired out of SFU co-op!  I decided that I wouldn’t let myself be forgotten: I was going to leave my mark on this organization and make this experience my own. With a solid goal in mind, each day became a new challenge for me to rise and make myself known. Here are the tips I followed that made my placement meaningful to both my employer and I.

Say, “Yes!”

On my first day, the sun was shining and I could smell something delicious coming from a food truck parked around the corner. My manager and co-worker invited me to join them for lunch, and even though my nervous introverted side wanted to eat my packed lunch and catch up on reading my position guidelines, I said yes. That short walk to the food truck would set the foundation for the awesome relationship I now have with my team. After that, I said “yes” to other meaningful learning experiences: the weekly life skills workshop where I got to bond with other employees; taking on my co-worker’s job on a big project while she was on vacation; and most recently, a spot on the Communications Committee for a conference this past March! Remember that while the work you do is important, it’s the relationships you form and opportunities you seize that will stay with you and your co-workers long after you have left.

Be good at your work - and then be better

The beautiful thing about being in Communication is that there is always more work to be done. This may sound intimidating, but it is the key to showcasing your initiative. In my role, I was responsible for drafting a monthly email newsletter that has gone out to subscribers since the beginning of the Internet. There was no doubt about it – the newsletter was lengthy, dated and hard to navigate. I saw this as an opportunity to improve a key communication that the organization relied on and proposed that I renovate our newsletter. My supervisor was thrilled because she had been meaning to change it herself but did not have time to do so. I took it upon myself to research consumer email patterns, good design practices, and survey statistics before presenting my pitch and - lo and behold - she loved it! Don’t be afraid to take initiative and ask if more can be done. Chances are if you see something that’s broken, your employer does too, but they haven’t gotten around to repairs. If you can identify these opportunities, you will leave with the confidence – and the portfolio – of a Communication Co-op rock star. 

Posted on April 11, 2014