I’m Mersedeh (pronounced Mare-se-day), an Honours Arts and Business student majoring in Psychology and minoring in Sexuality, Marriage, and Family studies. Spring 2018 was my fifth and final co-op term, and I was the Digital Communications Assistant at the Student Success Office. You may recognize my name from the other blog posts I’ve written for the UWaterloo Life blog. It was suggested that I “feature myself” in my last post and reflect on my co-op experiences, so here’s what came out of that proposition!
I walked into co-op pretty blind. I think I just thought that I would try it out and hoped for something good to come out of it… I hadn’t had a real job before my first co-op term; I had volunteered and been a part of some extracurriculars, but that was it. After sending out many applications and getting a few interviews, I was lucky enough to be matched with a job at Waterloo’s Arts Undergraduate Office. I can’t recall exactly how I felt, but I know that I was incredibly happy just to have a job and very excited to work in my own faculty.
I had an absolutely amazing first co-op term, learning and growing in the role. Due to that experience, when applying for my second co-op job, I made it a point to look for lots of jobs at Waterloo and at other organizations, instead of simply not paying much mind to whether I applied for jobs at Waterloo or not. I got a second incredible job at Waterloo, this time with the Interdisciplinary Centre on Climate Change.
After working there, I knew that the academic environment was a good fit for me. Though I was never closed-off to the idea of working somewhere other than Waterloo, I continued applying to many jobs at the University in anticipation of each of my next three co-op terms. The only thing that I was set on was having different experiences that allowed me to develop new skills, so I made sure that I never applied to jobs in the same Waterloo departments that I had already worked in. I attended interviews with a number of different organizations — but the University always drew me back in! So, I spent five wonderful co-op terms at Waterloo in five wonderful departments (you would really be surprised at how different they were).
I’m so very glad that I did, and I have absolutely no regrets. What I learned in the process of applying to, interviewing for, and matching with jobs is that everyone has their own path. It’s important to listen to others’ stories and advice, and no one should be stubborn enough to believe that they’re always right and/or stay in their comfort zone for the sake of it, but only you know what’s right for you.
Only you know what’s right for you.
People always question why I stayed at Waterloo for all of my co-op terms, but I know that I did what was right for me, and I also know how much I gained from my experiences. You should never let people make you feel bad about good decisions that they just don’t understand.
With that in mind, I’m going to give any co-op student readers some random bits of advice, to do with it what you will:
- Be open to feedback, whether it’s your first co-op term or your last. Feedback isn’t the same thing as criticism. Feedback benefits you and helps you grow, and you’re never going to be above receiving it. You’re just not.
- Ask questions. You should certainly be resourceful and problem solve, but remember that asking questions doesn’t mean that you’re incompetent. You want to understand and do things correctly!
- Take initiative. Ask for more work (if you have time for it!), be creative, and make suggestions. You don’t have to overstep to share what you think.
- Enjoy your co-op terms. I know that this is incredibly cliché, but even if you find that where you are and what you’re doing isn’t the right fit for you, it’s only temporary, and you’ll have learned something useful about yourself. Plus, I think it’s just nice to break up your study terms.
- Learn as much as you can. Even if you know what you want to do, consider pursuing things that are a little bit different; this can mean entire jobs or just small projects. Not everything is as it seems, and you may discover new interests and develop great transferable and/or technical skills.
- If you’re still confused about what you want to do after you’ve completed all of your co-op terms, that’s okay. I am too. Having lots of options – while incredibly lucky – can be overwhelming. I’m speaking to a Career Advisor, and it’s really, honestly helping me out.
I hope my advice and/or just reading a little bit about my experience with co-op helps you out somehow. All the best, Warriors. See you around!