My Co-op Search During Covid-19 Visualized

Reposted from LinkedIn with permission.

This fall, I entered my second year of university in the Accounting and Financial Management program and began to search for my first co-op job. Given the backdrop of the global pandemic, I knew that the process would be more challenging than usual.

YahyaI was confident, however, because I had relevant job experience, and extracurriculars, which made me a competitive applicant. With that said, due to the shortage of job opportunities, every job had an increased number of applicants who were just as, if not more qualified than me. This made the application process more difficult, so I knew that just applying through my university's job portal may not cut it. It was then that I started to go through other avenues to increase my chances and find more opportunities. In the end, I finally got a job offer from a company that I am excited about and grateful that all of my hard work paid off.

I am sharing my experience with finding a co-op job during the pandemic to hopefully help those currently looking for an internship to stay motivated and to keep trying. In the end, it truly comes down to a numbers game in terms of how many applications you submit (granted you prepare for the interview and are qualified for the role). I also want to stress how important it is to look at different channels for getting interviews and not relying on a single source. 

My Key Takeaways

  • Applying through my university’s job portal (WaterlooWorks) was the most effective way to secure job interviews. I got most of my interviews through WaterlooWorks– I selected the jobs most relevant to me and focussed on them.
  • External job postings (outside of Waterloo Works) are not very effective if just applying out of the blue. I got barely any interviews by using LinkedIn or company websites. Instead, if I looked at the job posting and reached out to the recruitment manager, I had a better chance of getting an interview.
  • Cold outreach was the most effective for me in terms of getting interviews. With that said, this also took up a lot of my time and required me to do a lot more research about the position. My final job offer was actually the result of a cold email I sent to a company I had researched prior, and I was interested in.
  • Cold calling was not that effective in getting an interview but was an excellent way to reach out and get advice regarding the job market.
  • Referrals are a great way to get interviews. However, to do that I would have needed an established network. This is incredibly hard to do in a short period of time and is something that should be done throughout the school year. I cannot stress enough how important it is to make sure you are not reaching out with the sole purpose of getting an interview. Instead, only reach out if you genuinely want to connect with the individual and learn more about their experiences.
  • The most important thing I did during the job search which helped me get the most interviews was to always research the jobs and companies I applied to. This does not mean I did in-depth research for all 376 applications — only for the jobs I felt I was a strong candidate for. I utilized my research in my cover letters to show the employers just how interested I was in the role.

Getting Help

This job search process was taxing and difficult. I often felt frustrated as if I will never land anything. At this point is when I reached out to family, friends, mentors, and people around me for help and advice. I was blown away by how much everyone was willing to help me out —including practicing mock interviews, sending resources, connecting me with firms hiring, and lots more. I am, without a doubt, grateful for everyone's help and am confident I could not have done it without them.

Another thing I learned is never to be afraid to reach out because everyone knows something you don't. I reached out to one of my finance professors when I was frustrated with the job search, and he shared with me something which changed my perspective:

"You can take a 100 no’s because you only need 1 yes."

The School of Accounting and Finance also has many resources to help students through their job searches. Victoria Salim, Manager of Co-op and Work-Integrated Learning Initiatives at SAF, is available for students to reach out to.

Visualization

When I began applying in September 2020, I kept track of all of the jobs I applied to, along with all of the cold outreach I did in a spreadsheet. I made sure to go back and continuously update the status and keep notes on any progress.

I made this visual using the flowchart maker SankeyMATIC, customized, and edited with Adobe Illustrator.

Final Note

I hope that my experience has helped provide you with an understanding of the current job market. Throughout the job search process, I made countless mistakes, but I also learned a lot. I’m happy to say that I am beyond excited to start my first co-op job and am amped for this term.

Good luck!

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