Each year when job searches get underway, the Co-op Office hears from nervous students seeking advice on how to land the “perfect” work term. Perhaps they’re facing multiple job offers where one employer can give them the chance to dive deep into one specific project while another offers a more diversified workload. The student could be wrestling with whether to relocate to another city or torn between two different industries. Some worry that picking the “wrong” job will “ruin” their entire co-op experience.
Phew! Sounds like a lot of pressure to put on yourself, doesn’t it? Luckily, the stakes are not that high! Your journey through the co-op program is not a straight line. You’re likely to encounter many detours, forks in the road, and unexpected obstacles during your work terms, and that’s okay! As long as you remain open to whatever learning opportunities come your way, your time as a co-op student will be valuable to you.
A tale of two students
Cara Hughesdon and Ethan Craig entered the Mount’s PR program in the fall of 2016 and completed their work terms at the same time. Both expanded their professional networks through connections they made on the job while also improving their social media, event planning, and writing skills.
So what sets them apart? Well, Cara chose to complete all three work terms at the same arts related not-for-profit while Ethan worked for three different organizations within the federal government, tech start-up, and economic development sectors. Despite taking very different paths, both students had great co-op experiences.
“Working in three completely different work environments with varying expectations, timelines, amounts of work, and levels of approval diversified my knowledge of public relations,” says Ethan. “My portfolio is now bursting with samples that display how I am able to adapt to new work environments.” Ethan’s experience allowed him to see how PR is practiced in public versus private employers and to determine which environments work best for him. “By opening up my opportunities, I’ve made it easier for myself to find employment in the future since I’m not focused on one specific career or job.”
For her part, Cara is equally happy to have completed all three work terms with the same employer. “Over time I was given more and more responsibility and was able to work on projects on my own. My employer trusted me and would constantly encourage me to try new things and this gave me a lot of confidence. I was also able to gain exposure in different areas such as fund development, grant writing, and website design that I feel I would not have had the opportunity to work on within one four-month work term at another organization.” By having regular and open conversations with her employer, Cara was able to ensure that each term provided her with new challenges to continue growing her PR skillset. She gained in-depth knowledge of what it takes to run a not-for-profit and remains interested in a career within the sector after graduation.
There’s no “wrong” path
Through the co-op program, you have the opportunity to try new things and learn from mistakes with the support of your employers. You may be surprised by the industries you come to love, or simply confirm the career plans you had when you first started the program. Discovering the kind of work you don’t enjoy can be just as valuable as learning what does interest you, especially on a four month term rather than a permanent contract!
Now is the time to explore your options. So don’t worry whether your peers stick with the same employer for multiple terms or seek out new opportunities each time. Just find the path that works for you and follow it. As Ethan and Cara demonstrate, you can learn and grow no matter where you are.