What I REALLY Learned on My Co-op Work Term

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What I REALLY Learned on My Co-op Work Term

By: admin
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Fulfilling your learning objectives is one thing and we know you gained a lot of new skills, but what did you REALLY learn on your co-op work term?  We first asked some current and former co-op students what lessons they took with them.  Now we'd like to know what you really learned.  Please share in the comments below the story.  

Interpersonal Lessons
There are numerous things that I picked up on my co-op work term, but the one that stuck with me the most is the unspoken rules and etiquette of e-mailing. E-mail is not like speaking to the recipient in person, so at times it's hard to grasp the context of the message. Without physically seeing this person, words in e-mails can be interpreted differently amongst everyone so one must be really careful! I also realized that its not something that is frequently spoken about, but its something that one must adopt quickly.

My advice is to always be sincere, humorous if you can and you will soon develop your own style and voice. If any problems may arise, do not try to resolve it via e-mail. Talk to them in person, or pick up the phone and call them.

-Kenson Chan, SFU SIAT Co-op Student

Early Mornings
When I started my co-op, getting up in the morning was challenging for me. But, I achieved management skills that will be really beneficial for me when I will start my new semester and I will do my assignments before the time.Also, it will be easy to get adjust into new environments when I will go be going for second co-op."
-Kiran Sandhu, SFU Co-op Student

What? Criticisms?
Criticisms may be the hardest feedback to digest, but they don't have to be! The first few times you may think to yourself, "I don't deserve this, the quality of my work was decent" or "Oh my god, my supervisor's evaluation is going to be so bad." But think about it this way, your supervisor cares enough to take the time and give you feedback, rather than just yelling at you the next time you make a mistake. So why not take this opportunity and really listen to what suggestions they have for you and improve yourself? Nothing's free these days, why not take free advice when you can get it?

I'm done all my work, what should I do next?
If you're done, of course you should ask for more work! In most cases, that's true, but sometimes it doesn't always work like that. Depending on your manager and the organization you work with, sometimes when they have really tight deadlines, they actually would appreciate you giving them a few hours or days to focus on their own priorities than trying to find something for you to do. Look around you and see if your team is busier and more tense than they normally are. If they are, chances are it might be a good idea to wait for a bit before approaching them asking for work. You could triple-check your work for careless mistakes, wait, you did double-check, right?

Skill development opportunities
Some organizations really value and support their staff with career and development. For instance, HSBC has a huge library of e-books on team management, effective communication and any other business or technology-related topics. Check with your manager to see if you can access these materials and if you are allowed some self-learning time when things are slower at work. My manager actually recommended me a couple of books to read when he didn't have any work for me, so always check!

-Grace Chiu, SFU Communications Co-op Student

Plan ahead!
If your supervisor works part time, be respectful of their schedule and plan ahead. You don't want to be stuck in a situation where you need an answer right away, and then realize you could have asked her last week. Planning ahead shows that you're responsible too!

Saying "No"
Use this cautiously! I learned that often or not, if your colleagues think you're capable, they will pile projects after projects on your lap. Know what you're capable of and let them know if you can't complete new, lower priority projects in a timely manner. They will appreciate the quality of work.

-Patricia Zhou, Special Projects Assistant, Co-operative Education Program

Asking the Right Questions
During my first co-op term I was reluctant to ask too many questions if I thought I could figure it out myself, but once I did start to ask about things I wasn't sure about I worked much more efficently, and everything was done right the first time.

Have Fun!
Your co-op work term can be really hectic, and sometimes it seems like you'll never get to the end of your ever growing 'To-Do' list, and that'll you'll never get to take a break. But you need to take a time out and join in on the fun stuff around the office as well. See if there's an office  hockey or football pool you can join, or maybe every Friday someone volunteers to make cookies. It'll ease the stress and and you might even make a new connection.

-Elizabeth Moffat, SFU Communications Co-op Student

So, what did you learn?  Share in the comments below.

Posted on December 08, 2011