8 Tips for Day One Co-op Success

By McMaster University - Faculty of Engineering Modified on March 13, 2023
Tags : Academics | Careers | STEM

Tips for thriving on your first day of engineering co-op.

 8 Tips for Day One Co-op Success

Will you be starting your co-op placement soon? Your first day can be scary, but McMaster’s Faculty of Engineering has the best advice to make sure your day goes smoothly. On top of the basic essentials you’ll need — a notebook, water bottle, lunch, and cash (just in case) — follow these top tips to crush it on your first day!

1. Wake up early

Give yourself more than enough time to eat a wholesome breakfast. You don’t want your stomach to rumble in your morning meetings. Make sure you also check the weather to avoid weather-related clothing mishaps or transportation disasters. You can check the weather a couple days in advance to help determine any alternative travel arrangements. If it looks like it’s going to rain heavily, take the bus to your co-op instead of walking.

PRO-TIP: Plan your outfit the night before!

2. Extra travel time

Plan extra travel time to get to where you need to go so that any unforeseen delays (late buses, rush hour traffic, stuck behind a train, run out of gas, difficulties finding parking) won’t be a problem.

PRO-TIP: Aim to arrive at least 10 minutes early!

3. Practice your introductions

Create a 30-second elevator pitch to briefly explain a little bit about yourself when you are meeting new people in the workplace. Be prepared to answer questions like “What is your role going to be?” and “What are you studying?”

Be engaged and try to get to know others, ask them questions about what their role is. You could end up working closely with them or needing their advice. Knowing people’s names and following up on previous conversations can help you build strong relationships.

4. Listen & observe

Watch how your manager and coworkers interact — are they casual or more formal in conversation? How do people dress: casual, business casual, or formal? Use what you see and hear to help you fit in.

5. Team meetings

You might be invited to a team meeting — just listen and take notes. See if there’s an agenda for the meeting that you can review in advance. If you have any questions, don’t be afraid to speak up.

PRO-TIP: Pay a visit to the washroom beforehand and be sure to bring water with you into the meeting (you never know how long the meeting will be).

6. Lunch invites

If you’re invited to lunch with your manager or coworkers, go! It’s important to show you’re ready to mingle with your new team — save your packed lunch for another day. This is a great opportunity to break the ice with your new team and make genuine connections.

7. Take notes

Take notes to keep track of your tasks (and later, your contributions) — this will help you build your resumé and portfolio. You’ll also be able to set realistic goals for yourself as you monitor your progress throughout your co-op placement. You can use these notes to leverage for more responsibilities and bigger projects with your manager.

8. Reflect

Reflect on the day and what you’ve learned when you get home. What did you do well? Was there anything that caught you off-guard? Use this time to prepare for your next co-op day so you can continue to improve.

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