You probably didn’t picture Zoom calls or working six feet apart when envisioning your first co-op work term. Instead, you may have practiced the perfect handshake or purchased actual “work pants” for your first day – both of which no longer apply.  

While learning and working has looked very different lately, the value of a co-op term at Waterloo remains unchanged. Whether working remotely or together, there are constants to practice before and during your first co-op term. To make sense of it all, five co-op students have broken down their top five co-op tips for landing your first work term.  

The more, the merrier  

Justin BlakeJustin Blake  

Honours Arts 4A  

Digital Communications Coordinator  

When applying to jobs on Waterloo Works, quantity has a quality all its own. It is much better to apply to many jobs and turn down potential offers than to apply to only a few and risk not getting any. Don’t be afraid to apply to jobs with requirements that you might not necessarily meet either. While some requirements may be mandatory, some employers may be willing to help you expand your skills on the job. For example, if a role asks for an intermediate level of experience in Microsoft Suite but you are just a beginner, there’s little to lose from sending an application anyway. You may have plenty of other skills the employer is looking for that will help you land the role.

Exploring your options  

Uswa ZafarUswa Zafar   

Honours Environment and Business 2A  

Communications Coordinator   

As you start your co-op journey, it’s important to understand your options — do you want to go through Waterloo Works or arrange a job on your own. (I bet you didn’t know you had these options!) Being a first-time co-op student, I would recommend applying through Waterloo Works or arranging a job on your own. You can do the latter by tapping into your network of contacts, whether it’s an organization you’ve dreamed about working for and reaching out to them on LinkedIn, connecting with your pool of friends on any leads or revisiting a previous employer — the options are truly what you make of them. Just be sure to familiarize yourself with the requirements of arranging your own job before you settle on the role.


There’s a resource for that 

Avery SudsburyAvery Sudsbury  

Honours Environment and Business 2A  

Marketing and Communications Specialist  

I would recommend taking advantage of as many of Waterloo’s free resources as you can. Possibly the easiest resource to make the most of is your co-op advisor and our PD course teaching assistants. They’re regularly accessible and can answer any questions about Waterloo Works, applications and interviews. More great sources of information are the co-op and CEE sites that provide guides on every step of the co-op process, important dates and highlight workshops to attend. There’s always room for improvement when it comes to co-op preparation and identifying those opportunities may make the difference between an average and a fantastic co-op experience.

Practice, practice, practice  

Shannon HarrisShannon Harris

Honours Environment, Resources and Sustainability 2A  

Public Affairs Coordinator  

My advice for your first interview is to practice the interview questions you get in your professional development course and to take note of the key points you would like to get across to a potential employer.  Believe it or not, many of these standard questions end up appearing during your actual interviews which makes preparing and feeling confident on your big day so much easier. You don’t need to memorize answers word-for-word, but preparing ahead of time by thinking about how you can use these questions to showcase your relevant skills and qualities will help you stand out from the rest.

Don’t give up — keep going 

Alexandra KaleAlexandra Kale  

Honours Arts and Business, Theatre and Performance 4A  

Community Relations & Events Assistant  

Don’t worry if you don’t secure a match during the first round of interviews. Though your application period may be longer, there are still tons of high-quality roles available in the continuous rounds. Some employers simply prefer the continuous timeline or have had great success with co-op students from the continuous rounds previously. For my first co-op term, I got a match during a continuous round and ended up working for the Ontario government in the heart of Downtown Toronto!