Benefits of Being in Co-Op from a Student’s Perspective

Looking back at my university career, the most influential part of the entire 5 years was being in co-op. There were so many benefits to being part of co-op outside of filling in work experience on my resume. Whether you have been considering co-op all along, or have never given co-op a second thought, read on to learn about everything co-op programs offer to students.

1)      Learn how to find (and land!) a job

This may sound simplistic, but it’s true. Having a degree is great, but if you don’t have job-search skills to back it up, finding a job after finishing school can be a struggle. Co-op teaches you how to build a resume that sells your skills to employers, how to write a solid cover letter that will get you noticed, and how to interview well. Not only that, but being a co-op student teaches you how to find the jobs you want to apply for.

In today’s job market, job searching is widely done through networking and the ‘hidden job market’ (meaning most jobs aren’t posted on online job boards anymore).  Co-op taught me how to contact people in companies I was interested in working for, and land jobs that I never would have found just by searching sites like Indeed. In short, the job searching experience that you gain in co-op is invaluable, and just as important as the work experience you’ll also get!

2)      Build your network

Networking is huge in any industry, but particularly in the food industry! I have had many colleagues tell me that the food industry in Canada is very small, and that you will cross paths with people multiple times throughout your career. Because of this, having positive relationships with people in the industry is huge.

They can lead you to new opportunities, or teach you valuable lessons that you can take with you in your career. Since you will interact with many co-workers in the industry during work terms, co-op is a great way to build your network.

3)      Graduate with work
experience and relevant soft skills already on your resume

It’s no secret that finding jobs today is tricky. It seems like every entry-level position requires you to have some previous experience. But how are you supposed to get the first job that gives you experience, if you need experience to get hired? Well, co-op is a great way to bridge that gap! It will give you work experience as a student, and once you graduate with a co-op degree, you will be that much more attractive to prospective employers.

4)      Explore all kinds of fields

Deciding what you want to do with your life after school is challenging. Co-op is a great way to test out lots of different types of jobs, depending on your interests. Maybe you’re looking to get hands on experience with something you’ve learned about in school, or something your classes don’t cover. Or, maybe you have lots of career paths that you want to explore. Co-op gives you a risk-free way to explore vastly different fields.

In co-op, you can jump from research to government, different sectors within an industry itself, or roles in different departments within one particular company. Because co-op positions are relatively short term, you get a small taste of a role/industry/company, and then can completely switch gears for your next placement. It’s a great way to try out many different jobs and find out what you like and, equally important, what you don’t!

5)      Make money

While this likely isn’t the primary reason to consider joining a co-op program, it is a definite perk. Having regular, paid work terms can lower your financial stress during academic semesters, give you some spending money to treat yourself, or allow you to take less financial aid, and therefore graduate with significantly less student debt!

6)      Encounter new people, places and experiences

If you want to travel, co-op is a great way to do so while making money at the same time! While it takes more work up-front to secure an international work term, it’s an economical way to travel to new countries while you’re still a student. If an international placement isn’t your thing, taking co-op positions in different cities is a great way to explore new areas, meet new people, and try out new things.

Students enter co-op programs for hundreds of reasons, each of them unique.  No matter what your primary driver for being interested in co-op is, you will get so much from the widespread benefits of the program.

Author: Sonya Turvey

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