As the spring term draws to a close, the fall term is drawing nearer. If you are enrolled in co-op at university, it may be the dreaded recruitment term. On top of juggling courses, assignments, essays and exams, you have to find a job. You have to submit what seems like 200 cover letters and resumes, and attend multiple nerve-racking interviews, just with the hopes of landing a good job with decent pay, in a decent location and with decent responsibilities. Although the recruitment term is stressful and overwhelming, it is a great opportunity to refocus your goals and aspirations.
Co-op education is an excellent way to make money to help pay for your studies, gain experience in the workforce, and network with employers and businesses. The University of Waterloo (UW) has the world’s largest co-op program, with more than 6700 employers in more than 60 countries, giving UW students the chance to work with thousands of people in different places, doing different things (“Why co-op?”, 2017). The ability to leave your undergraduate studies with between four and six co-op work terms under your belt is invaluable. Co-op gives students a way to, not only earn a living, but also gain useful work experience in their field before they graduate. Upon graduation, you are heading into the workforce with multiple work experiences and connections. Co-op is also an extremely helpful way to learn more about your industry or field of study, and whether you really enjoy it or not. It is easy to say you enjoy economics, but will you actually know without being exposed to a real job in economics? Co-op is a great way to test the waters in different jobs and fields until you hopefully find what you're looking for (or know what you aren’t looking for). If you really didn’t enjoy a certain work term, that’s okay – it means you can reflect on what you didn't enjoy about it and re-evaluate your professional goals.
The recruiting term, or the hiring term, is when all the students who are on your stream compete for jobs on WaterlooWorks at the same time. Although it seems ruthless and competitive, there are multiple jobs, opportunities and rounds for you to find a job that's right for you. Yes, you are looking for the same jobs as your peers, but there are many ways to set yourself a part. First it is important to mentally prepare for the recruiting term. You will be juggling a lot. On top of your regular courses, you may be enrolled in a Professional Development online course, all while applying to dozens of jobs and writing dozens of cover letters. It is important to remember that while getting a job is the goal, the world will not end if you don’t get one. There are still ways to make your university career worthwhile and meaningful, on top of your studies. If you don’t get a job, find something to do that will still contribute to your resume and future professional goals.
In terms of preparation, before the recruiting term starts brainstorm the types of jobs you want, what skills you have and what kinds of roles you are looking for. Before going onto WaterlooWorks on job posting day, have a general idea of what you are looking for. If, for whatever reason, you can’t work in Toronto, then limit your searches and don’t read job descriptions of jobs located in Toronto. If you know you do want to do administrative work, you can search for administrative jobs within the site. This may save you time and energy, as you will probably scan over thousands and thousands of jobs. Another helpful tip that I learned in my first recruiting term is to have one master resume and cover letter. Both of which contain all your skills, experiences, major projects or jobs; then for each job, customize a cover letter and resume to fit each job description. It will make a stronger impact on potential employers, than submitting one generic application that could go towards any company on the market. Take a look at the job description and look for the qualities and skills that they emphasize. If they emphasize communication skills in their job description, mirror that in your application. Make sure you check your application thoroughly for grammatical mistakes, as that can impact the level of credibility you present. Book an appointment with the Centre for Career Action for help with resume or cover letters content, format or general advice, or with the Writing and Communication Centre for word choice and sentence construction.
There are tons of tips on finding jobs on a recruitment term. The best piece of advice I have to give you is to go into the term prepared. Take initiative and be active – jobs won’t land in your lap. Know what you’re looking for before going into the term and send in applications you are proud of. Remember that getting a job isn’t a make or break for the rest of your professional or academic career. Use your co-op experiences as a stepping-stone to future success, as they will give you the opportunity to meet new people, see new places and learn new skills. Don’t take it for granted and good luck!
Why co-op?. (2017). Co-operative Education. Retrieved 26 July 2017, from https://uwaterloo.ca/co-operative-education/why-co-op