Starting your first co-op term right: How to make your mark on the company

Regan ZinkAs most UWaterloo students know, starting a new co-op placement can definitely be intimidating, especially when it’s your first. You want to learn as much as you can, but you also want to be useful. You want to be remembered as a grade A worker, but you also want to make meaningful connections. You want to fit in with the company, but you also want to make a mark that will last.

When it’s your first co-op placement, all of these goals may seem hard to reach, but with the right work ethic and dedication, it’s more achievable than you might think. Each year, a student from each faculty is recognized for the achievements they’ve made in their co-op placements. I was able to speak to Regan Zink, the Faculty of Environment’s top co-op student of 2016.

Regan is a 3B Urban Planning student, who worked as a student planner at MHBC Planning in Kitchener, Waterloo. It was her first co-op placement, and she was able to help with development applications and policy work, as well as writing draft bylaws, budgets, work plans, and proposals.

Though impressive, it certainly wasn’t easy, considering this was Regan’s first-ever co-op placement. “When I started making budgets and work plans, I had no idea how much a project would be worth,” she said. “I didn’t know where to start! My supervisor looked at me and just said, ‘give it a shot.’ So I utilized my resources and constantly asked questions.’”

Regan’s success is exemplary of the hard work that she put in, having written proposals that brought in over $100,000 for her company. “It’s important to go out of your way and find people to work with. Finding your place in the company really helps you be comfortable with any future tasks that you are given,” she said.

Regan’s work has definitely made an impact on the company, and it has now been materialized through the MHBC Student Manual; a booklet that she made for future co-op students to make their transition within the company easier. “They didn’t have an employee manual [in the Kitchener location], so I made one for co-op students,” Regan said. “It was an idea I started working on over my lunch break. I realized there wasn’t a clear documentation system for students, and it can be difficult starting a new job when there isn’t a ton of guidance.”

Don’t be afraid to ask questions and to seek more work. Take on your interests instead of working solely on what’s been set aside for you. Talk to people. Be willing to help out and take on extra challenges.

Regan Zink

Regan’s manual makes it easier for future co-op students to navigate their way throughout the office, providing information on everything from where you can do your mailing, to a brief overview of everyone’s role in the office. She also made a filing organization system that would make writing proposals easier. “I figured it would be helpful for the next person,” Regan said. “It’s something that can continue to be passed on for future students.”

Landing a job can be difficult, but what’s even more difficult, is creating a worthwhile experience that carries a real impact on the company that you are working for. Regan’s drive and diligence has certainly left a mark on the company, and for prospective students who will continue to take on her role.

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