Posted on: November 1, 2017
During his time as a co-op student with Career Education, Cole Weber documented his experiences through co-operative education in a three-part series Cole’s Notes: One Student’s Journey through Co-operative Education
The School-to-Work Transition
Up until this point in your life, schoolwork has most likely been your primary focus. You might notice further into your degree how that focus divides as you begin to consider career options. Transitioning from academic to professional life can be difficult, but one of the main reasons students join co-op is to better prepare themselves for when that time comes. Having said that, the following insights can be used in any school-to-work transition, whether you are a co-op student or not.
Nothing is more exciting than starting a new job and navigating a new work environment. Sorry, did I say exciting or terrifying? As a newbie, you probably have no clue about half of the stuff you will be doing or what you will be working on. Want to know one simple trick to combat that feeling of “what the whaaaaa’s?” Ask questions. No one is expecting you to be an expert on the first day. Everybody understands and appreciates learning curves and adjustment periods (hey, they were new once too). They expect you to ask questions. You won’t be deemed incompetent or unprepared for the role, especially when you offer articulate, thoughtful inquiries and take detailed notes.
Set Goals and establish expectations
Once you have all the training in place, you can now begin to set goals and expectations. These goals may look very different for a co-op work term as opposed to a full time position, but the value is similar in both. Whatever your situation may be, goal setting gives you a destination point and motivation for your time in that job. Set specific goals and establish increasingly complex and nuanced objectives as time goes on.
You may be new to the crew, but do not be afraid to offer opinions during meetings. One of the main attributes that an employer is looking for upon hiring is a fresh, new perspective. Even if you have half an idea, be sure to contribute because it can cause a snowball effect and lead to bigger things (and you’ll get the credit!)
Flexibility is key in the workplace. Listen closely and keep an eye out for the unspoken politics and unwritten rules of the workplace. There are many little things that go a long way with colleagues in your new workplace, so even if you don’t like some of the rules or norms, just roll with it.
Whether you’re on a co-op work term, in a part time, temporary or a full-time graduate position, this is one of the most important parts of transitioning from school to work. The connections you make in your workplace will dictate what your experience will be like in the future. Attend work functions or get-togethers, even if it is a bit out of your comfort zone. This is a great way to break down barriers, network and make friendship connections.
Above all, try and have fun in whatever you do. Enjoy each experience as you discover and develop your skill sets.
Refer to the website for more information on Career Education.