In any job, it’s essential to know what’s expected of you, and your co-op placement won’t be any different. By setting specific goals with your employer, you’ll gain structure and experience.
Here are some examples of goals and expectations you may want to discuss:
Whenever you are assigned or agree to complete a task, always follow through. If you feel you can’t deliver on your promises, communicate that to your manager. Explain why and what your next steps will be. Learning how to prioritize and delegate shared responsibilities can help avoid situations where you may underdeliver.
Over time, by successfully completing your assigned and accepted tasks, you will steadily gain a reputation for being dependable.
During your Co-op, you may make mistakes, and it is ok! Making mistakes is part of the learning curve. The key is to accept responsibility when things don’t go as planned. Taking ownership and articulating possible solutions will result in faster resolution and enable others to see you as a leader.
Your Co-op is a valuable opportunity to start networking. After all, the people you meet in this setting could become friends, professional contacts, and possible mentors for years to come.
A mentor is someone who can guide you through your Co-op and be a bridge to professional networks and learning opportunities. They won’t give you a complete roadmap to success but rather, can serve as a trusted source of feedback and information.
You’ll want to select someone who you admire and has the skills and traits you want to develop. Maybe there is someone with a job title you would one day like to hold. If they accept, you can set up regular, short meetings with them to catch up and ask questions.
A vital skill that will serve you in any profession, collaborating well means defining expectations, actively listening and communicating clearly. During your Co-op, seek out opportunities to practice collaboration.
Your first couple of days and weeks may include onboarding sessions and training. Take advantage of any training time and ask questions. If there isn’t any formal training, find new sources of information on your own. This is a rare opportunity to understand how an organization works inside and out. To get the most from your Co-op, approach each hour of the working day with energy and curiosity.
Over the course of your Co-op, make a habit of writing in a journal so you can recall ideas, learnings and accomplishments.
You’ll want to keep track of the details of your accomplishments, especially any metrics and numbers that can make your success tangible. Whether daily or weekly, these notes will be especially useful when you are updating your resume after your Co-op or asking your employer to be a professional reference.
During your Co-op, you will be learning many new skills, navigating a new hierarchy and stretching in all the ways that foster personal and professional growth. Each of these is likely to result in stress and self-doubt at one point or another.
To counteract that uncertainty, identify ways to build positive thinking. If you are journaling, document the highs as well as the lows. Practice gratitude by singling out the reasons behind the good outcomes. Be gentle with yourself when things don’t go as planned, and find meaningful ways to reward yourself for hard work done well.
Not every Co-op placement will result in a job offer right away. If the company and work you’ve done are of interest to you, it’s a good practice to stay in touch so that when an opportunity does open up, you will be top of mind.
As your Co-op ends, send personalized thank you notes or emails to the people you’ve worked with. Mention projects you worked on together, express your gratitude for any guidance they provided and give them your personal contact information.
You may want to send regular updates to the people you worked with closely. For example, if you’re working on a school or personal project related to your Co-op, you could send a note with the details. You can also invite your former colleagues to coffee. This is a great way to share your ambitions, learn what’s new with them and ask questions.
If you see a new job at the company that interests you, reach out to your contacts before you apply. They may be able to refer you to the position or give you insights to help tailor your application.