Your Guide to Co-op and How to Make the Most of it

By University of Waterloo Modified on April 23, 2020
Tags : Careers

Sharpening your skills for the workplace.

Your guide to co-op and how to make the most of it from the University of Waterloo in Canada.

You may have heard about co-op while researching universities, or maybe you've applied to a co-op program. But what is co-op, and what's it all about? In this article, we unravel the mysteries behind co-op and how you can benefit from the experience and succeed!

What is co-op?

Co-op programs combine school and work, allowing you to graduate with up to two years' work experience (depending on your program). It's an awesome way to prepare for the future workplace and gain versatile and relevant skills.

And if you're not sure what you want to do after you graduate, co-op is also an excellent way of finding the career path you'd like to follow.

Co-op aims to mimic the real-world workplace, including applying and interviewing with potential employers. You won't simply be handed a job. It'll take some hard work and practice! However, you'll be glad to know there are loads of resources available to you to help you achieve this.

Want to know more? Here's what to expect from co-op at Waterloo.

What's in it for you?

Co-op is a great way to get hands-on experience and apply what you've learned in class to the workplace. It's also useful for making connections and networking with others. Not only will you connect with your employers and co-workers, but you'll also have the opportunity to attend networking events and job fairs — an excellent way to meet potential employers and learn about the inner workings of different companies.

You'll also get the chance to gain in-depth knowledge on applying to jobs. Refine your résumé, learn to create cover letters that stand out, and improve your interview skills!

And last but not least, most co-op positions pay — which means you can help offset the costs of tuition and other expenses!

How does it work?

The sequence of when you're in school and when you're working and the number of work terms you'll complete depends on your program and the university you're attending, so make a note to do some additional research! At Waterloo, most students switch between study and work terms every four months.

During your study terms, you'll also be applying to jobs and attending interviews. Sounds like a lot on your plate? You're in luck — there's tons of support available to ensure you make the most out of co-op.

Co-op support

Universities provide an array of resources to help you on your co-op journey. Some universities have career centres where students can go for résumé critiques, workshops, and networking events. Waterloo's Centre for Career Action offers all of these. You may also have a co-op advisor, who you can go to with any questions or concerns.

Universities may also offer courses focusing on developing key career skills. For example, Waterloo offers free professional development courses that help you not only throughout the job application process, but during your work terms. These courses allow you to reflect on your workplace experiences and to maximize what you learn each term.

To learn more, visit our page on co-op programs or our in-depth article on co-op to find out what sets Waterloo apart.

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