It’s your first day on the job with a new co-op employer, and there’s a lot to take in! Computer log-ins, policy manuals, learning the office layout, invitations to weekly meetings, training sessions, and the list goes on. With so much to do, making time for social interactions with co-workers might be the last thing on your mind. It might surprise you to learn just how much of an impact that small talk and group lunches can have on your professional life post-graduation, however.
Turning co-op into a career
“One of the most important things that co-op students can do on their work terms is network,” says former co-op student Kenya Dames (BPR 2017). During her time at the Mount, Kenya completed two work terms within the federal government, and later went on to complete a one-year contract with the Canada Revenue Agency after finishing her degree. She landed this position through her connections with previous co-op employers.
“As an international student, networking was one of the most important factors to securing full-time employment after graduation,” Kenya says. “Had I not been as involved as I was in expanding my network while in university, I have no idea how I would’ve gained the same opportunities that I did. In fact, almost every single opportunity that I’ve been provided with in my career was because of the connections that I made while in school.”
Like Kenya, Mount alumna Jessica Skinner (BBA 2014) also landed a full-time job thanks to a co-op connection. Her final work term with BDO turned into a permanent position. Six years later, she is now a manager at the same company. Looking back, Jessica is grateful she made the most of her time in the co-op program by enhancing her skills and building her professional network.
“While on your work terms, you have the opportunity to make connections within the organization as well as the industry that you are working in,” she explains. “These connections have the ability to carry you through your term and provide additional opportunities down the road. I am still in contact with connections I made over five years ago on one of my work terms!”
“You’ve got this”
While it may be a little nerve-wracking to think about reaching out to new colleagues, both Kenya and Jessica agree that those social interactions are more than worth it in the end. “Just remember that this is your opportunity to make the most out of your experience and build lasting connections,” Jessica says.
“You have just four months to learn and establish strong relationships during your work term,” Kenya adds. “If you make the best out of your co-op experience and solidify those relationships, you have nothing to worry about. You’ve got this!”
Keep those connections alive
One final thing Kenya and Jessica have in common? They both made sure to stay in touch with co-workers and supervisors long after their work terms had ended through LinkedIn, email updates, and even the occasional coffee chat. After all, you never know when a connection with a former colleague might come in handy during a future job search or when you’re in need of some professional guidance or advice. Plus as Kenya notes, by staying in touch you can thank your former mentors for the positive impact they had on your life.
“I enjoyed working with these people and I think that they enjoyed working with me too. So providing them with little updates here and there on my personal victories, it was almost as if it was a win for them too. For me, networking is a no-brainer: do the work, establish those connections, and keep in touch. Because it truly pays off.”