Why Co-op in an Office Environment is EXACTLY Like School

Why Co-op in an Office Environment is EXACTLY Like School

By: Erica Lamb
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When it comes to the office environment, there are many similarities to student/school life: notebooks filled with quick thoughts scattered on various surfaces, generalized stress and sleepless nights over big deadlines, and of course, the prescribed coffee injection every morning (and afternoon). Making the transition from full-time student life to working 9-5 in an office environment can at first seem hectic and life-altering, but in reality, it is quite the opposite.

Having completed several months in my first co-op placement with the Vancouver Canucks, I have come to realize that you can take the student out of school, but you can’t take the school out of the student. University isn’t over, kids, it’s just a warm-up.

For starters…

Canucks PhoneYou need to stay organized. Though you may be at the same desk each day and not in random lecture halls, there will still be numerous assignments thrown at you, often from different people. In order to ensure that you are able to get the job done (and do it well), it’s helpful to keep in mind a lot of the tricks that are taught in school. A TO DO list can do no wrong, and post-it notes and multi-coloured highlighters are your new best friends. When working with email systems like Microsoft Outlook, too, there are often tools that allow you to colour code emails and keep track of things with chiming reminders. In my position with the Vancouver Canucks, there are always deadlines to remember, which is why keeping my desk littered with reminders has worked perfectly to keep me up-to-date.

Which leads me to my next point…

The office supplies room is your new favourite area. In school, it’s always vital to have enough notebooks, pencils, and the latest degree-specific devices, and the same goes for the office. Without the beauty that is the supply room, my daily bid for envelopes would be disastrous, as would the occasional realization that the stapler is empty. Particularly with my love of post-it-notes to keep it together, the office supply room is a life saver in any environment.

Your supervisor is there to help you. Although they have hired you for a purpose and will expect you to be responsible and capable, it’s okay to ask questions. Like professors and TAs, it is understood that you are not an expert in your field and are using co-op as an introduction to the workforce. Nobody will be angry if you have uncertainties and want to double check. Asking for help before making a mistake is often easier, and preferable, to attempting damage control after the fact.

And finally…

Office SpaceNever underestimate the printer. In university, it’s the age-old adage: never leave your printing to the moment before the assignment is due because if anything can go wrong, it will. It is a student’s worst nightmare, and unfortunately nothing changes when you transition to office life. In my first few weeks at the Canucks, there were desperate moments where printing off my projects seemed a foolish dream, never to be achieved. It was only after many visits from the IT department that I learned some tips and tricks to manipulate the machines into doing my bidding. Though many things change when you’re not in school, the anxiety of the printer will always be the same. 

Your co-op placement(s) will teach you a lot of things relevant to your chosen career path, and will definitely be a wonderful experience. Just like university is meant to shape you for your future, so too does co-op provide opportunities to grow and learn. In both school and in the working world, there are other people who have gone through similar situations, and it’s always fun to get to know them and to laugh about the little things. Learn from their advice, work hard to do your best, and appreciate the IT department, because when that damn printer jams (and we all know it will), they will be your knights in shining armor who swoop in to save the day. 

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Posted on September 17, 2015