Leave University with Years of Relevant Experience: Do 3+ Co-op Work Terms

Leave University with Years of Relevant Experience: Do 3+ Co-op Work Terms

By: Tanya Behrisch
  1919 reads

You’ve completed one or two 4-month co-op work terms.  At each job, you learned new technical and soft skills.  Your experiences were mostly positive, you grew your network, made good contacts and now you’ve got professional references for a future job application. Why go through the co-op office for a 3rd, 4th or 5th work term?  Why hand over ~$800 in tuition/semester when you can find a job yourself?  These are valid questions that I asked myself and my Co-op Coordinator when I was a student.

There are multiple pathways to interesting student jobs other than senior co-op (3rd, 4th, 5th work terms), and there are plenty of online job platforms.  MyExperience isn’t one of them if you’re looking outside co-op.  Yet this is where the best known employers post jobs for qualified, registered, and insured students.  Yes, insured. 

Did you know that as a registered co-op student, you’re covered for ~$3,000,000 liability and you’re still covered under your parents’ B.C. medical health insurance plan?  You might think, “so what?” if you’re healthy.  But some students depend in this benefit and discover that by doing an unregistered “internship” outside of co-op, their health insurance will cost them or their parents ~ $1000/month, depending on their medical condition.  Compare that to $800 co-op tuition/semester. 

Aside from liability insurance, health coverage, and full-time student status, there are other real benefits to completing 3rd, 4th and 5th co-op work terms.  Students who wish they’d done more co-op before graduating tell us this:

  • Having co-op experience on your resume is great.  In reality though, graduating with 4-8 months’ experience in a job market that generally requires a minimum of 1-2 years experience can mean another year of entry level work, before someone at that dream job will look at your resume.
  • The companies and organizations you have access to as a co-op student are not the companies and organizations you’ll have access to as a new grad. If you want to work for an elite organization, you’ll need to be in the top 1% of applicants in a much more competitive pool. The fastest and most effective way to get your foot in the door is to have worked for the organization as a student. That being said, if you’ve done two co-op terms and neither of those were with the company of your dreams, you should apply through co-op. You could get a job there through formal relationships already established by your co-op program.  That’s what co-op Coordinators are paid to do: find great co-op jobs with solid companies.
  • Competition gets stiff after graduation as you go from competing with other university students to competing with industry professionals. Having 8 months of experience won’t cut it for most companies. For elite organizations, the supply of semi-qualified recent grads is exponential. Positions are not. 
  • In your first 1-2 co-op positions, you were just getting started. To really maximize the resume-building and contact-making opportunities that co-op provides, you want to have a few terms under your belt where you walked in and wowed your supervisors. The ability to do this comes with experience. 
  • The more co-op terms you complete, the larger your pool of potential post-grad employers becomes. This increases your probability of getting a job upon graduation.  A good job. 

Come talk to us if you have questions about doing a senior (3rd, 4th or 5th) co-op work term, available as long as you’re still a student at Beedie. By the end of my degree, I completed 5 co-op work terms. I just couldn’t get access to the same high calibre job postings on the outside as I could through co-op. And doing senior co-op helped me go further, faster. 

Tanya Behrisch

Tanya Behrisch is the Manager of the Business Co-op Program who writes on topics relating to workplace culture and enjoys using humor to teach job search success. She’s got a knack for job development in foreign countries, especially Germany and Japan.  What she enjoys most about her job are the 11 people with whom she works in Business Co-op, especially being on a supportive team of colleagues who care for each other. Tanya paints coastal landscapes in oil and sells her work privately.  Currently, she’s working on canvas 5 feet across, 3 feet high.  It keeps her on her toes and off of Netflix.  She’s a fiction hound, with a particular fondness for contemporary Canadian, UK, Indian, Australian and American writers. Reach out to her, she’d love to hear from you. You can find Tanya on LinkedIn.

Beyond the Article

  • Ever considered going international for co-op? Tanya Behrisch discusses the benefits of international experience as well as why risk is relevant for young professionals. 
  • Are you a Beedie Business student looking to expand your career options? Connect with the Beedie Co-op program, here. 
  • Learn more about the benefits of co-op from students who've been there
Posted on January 11, 2019