Job search tips for arranging your own co-op job

Female co-op students working in an office

If you’re interested in arranging your own co-op job but aren’t sure how to start your search, we’ve got you covered! Lots of students choose to search for jobs outside WaterlooWorks, and this webpage has some helpful tips to get you started.

1) First things first: Figure out where you want to work and check requirements

Before you start your search, it’s important to consider WHERE you want to work (in-person or virtually) and what the requirements are for your specific situation. In order for a job to be eligible for co-op credit, it must meet our job location requirements for standard and flexible work terms.

You should also consider important factors such as your personal safety, citizenship, immigration status and any legal requirements or documentation that may be required depending on your location and the location of the organizations you’re applying to.

To help with this, we’ve put together some examples of questions you might consider asking a potential employer in order to make informed and safe employment decisions. If you have questions about what’s possible for your particular situation, talk to your co-op advisor.

2) Ensure you understand the different options available for co-op credit

In order to receive co-op credit for your work term, your job must meet our standard or flexible work term requirements. Review the requirements for your specific work term to ensure you understand:

  • What types of jobs are allowed (e.g., full-time, part-time, multiple positions/employers, etc.)
  • Required work term length (e.g., the minimum/maximum number of weeks/hours, etc.)
  • Pay/compensation expectations and exceptions
  • Supervisor relationship
  • Performance evaluation
  • Job location requirements

Tip: because the required work term length is always shorter than the actual four-month window, you usually have more time than you think to search for work!

3) Download the “Letter of Introduction” to help explain what co-op is and the many benefits

When connecting with potential employers, it can be helpful to have a letter to explain what co-op is and the many benefits of hiring a co-op student from the University of Waterloo! To help with this, we have branded letters available to help students introduce employers to the concept of co-op and explain how co-op at Waterloo works. We also have a letter tailored and brochure specifically for international employers. Download the appropriate 'Letter of Introduction' based on the employer’s location.

It can also be helpful to understand the available sources of funding that may help employers cover the cost of hiring YOU! For example, a recent study discovered that employers gained over $2 for every $1 spent on co-op student salaries – that’s a huge amount of savings, especially for smaller companies. To learn more about available sources of funding that employers can access, visit our funding opportunities webpage.

4) Prepare your application documents

Depending on where you’re looking for jobs and what industries you’re interested in, there may be different recruitment standards, processes and terms used by employers. For example, the terms “CV” and “resume” could mean the same thing or could refer to two very different documents, depending on the locations and industries you’re searching within. In addition, resumes and cover letters often look different in Canada vs. other locations, so we recommend that you do some research on resumes, networking tips and where to find posted jobs for your chosen location and industry.

If you need help with your application documents or planning your job search, you can book an appointment or attend a drop-in with the Centre for Career Development through WaterlooWorks. You can also check out the work search and application tips within CareerHub, depending on your location:

illustration of a resumeMajor sections of a résumé

A résumé is as unique as the people who make them, and the content will change over time. You’ll want to adjust your content depending on the job you are applying to in order to match your skills and experience directly to the job description. Explore some major sections of a resume to get you started.

Illustration of writing a listWrite effective bullet points in your résumé

Use concise bullet points to showcase your accomplishments and skills. Start each bullet point with strong and descriptive action verbs providing a clear image of your achievements in the employers’ mind. Avoid vague verbs like “helped” or “participated”. Instead, explore these sample achievement and skill verbs.

illustration of a cover letterCustomize your cover letter for each job

Employers like tailored cover letters that demonstrate why you’re suitable for the job, passionate about that industry and interested in that particular job/company. To find out more, check out our cover letter templates.

illustration of an interviewPreparing for an interview

It’s impossible to know the exact questions you will hear in an interview but you can predict what kinds of questions an employer might ask by analyzing the job description and taking note of the skills and qualifications highlighted. Common interview questions and tips will give you an idea of what to expect.

Please note: You will need to login with your WATIAM credentials to view content on CareerHub. Once you've logged in, you'll also have access to other portals like MyWorldAbroad for international resources and advice around working/living abroad. 

5) Consider networking as part of your strategy

Reaching out to people you know can be a great strategy to find potential job leads and build your network. The more people who know you are looking for a co-op job the better, as you never know what helpful tips they might share with you! We recommend you start small by reaching out to your current contacts and to see if they know anyone who is hiring.

You can also check out some tips on CareerHub via the Find work inside Canada > Uncovering opportunities: Networking section – though the content focuses on job searching inside Canada, the power of networking is universal and can be applied internationally!

6) Explore online job boards

Popular websites like LinkedIn JobsIndeedMonster, and OverseasJobs can be used across multiple countries. In addition, check out the Employer-Student Direct, Contract, Part-Time and Volunteer and External Job Boards on WaterlooWorks for additional opportunities and links to external job boards that could be eligible for co-op credit.

If you’re looking for work outside Canada:

  • Scroll down to Finding an International Job on the Find Work Outside Canada section of CareerHub for more country-specific resources.

Some job board search tips:

  • In the search bar, explore using multiple different key words including job titles, skills or phrases (e.g., “customer service,” “Excel,” “student,” “intern” or “remote.”
    • Please note: that some international employers might not be familiar with terms like “co-op” and might be more familiar with terms like “intern.” When in doubt, do some research to see what terms are relevant to your location/industry, or simply adjust your search to see what comes up!
  • When possible, use the advanced search option to find relevant results. For example, you can specify that you are looking for a temporary or junior opportunity, removing job postings that aren’t relevant to you like senior permanent positions.
  • Remember: This is all about trial-and-error, so if you aren’t getting enough search results you can try using broader search terms or fewer terms overall! Alternatively, if you’re getting too many search results you can try adding more specific search terms and more terms overall.

7) Research employers in your chosen location/industry and reach out to them directly about potential opportunities.

Do a Google search, check business directories, LinkedIn, and the news to create a list of employers you are interested in – even if they aren’t advertising any positions. You can even explore various national consulates, lab networks, tech parks, business bureaus, and more!

Once you’ve researched some potential targets, email them directly with a broadcast letter to ask about any potential opportunities. Visit Cover and Broadcast Lettersin the Apply/Interview section of CareerHub for examples of what to include in your email or reach out to your co-op advisor for access to branded UWaterloo letters tailored for Canadian and international employers!

For more job search resources and ideas, visit the Centre for Career Development’s "Prepare for your career" webpage and consider reaching out to your Co-op Advisor.