Friday, May 10, 2013

Co-Op Confidential: Tips As You Near The Halfway Point

Congratulations!  You have landed a Co-op.  All of the hard work of writing your resume, searching job boards, sending in applications, and going through the interview process has paid off and you have at least landed a job in your field if not a dream position for your favorite team or sport.  Done and done…right?  As Lee Corso would say, “Not so fast, my friend!”

As I’ve discussed with some of you over the years and as I’ve written about on this blog before, your Co-op is essentially a six month job interview.  Looking at Co-op like this with a big picture approach is necessary.  You are a potential future employee of this organization.   You are not just the “college intern” or “that kid from Drexel”.  The greatest compliment I received in my career from my experiences in Drexel Athletics and the Philadelphia Eagles is that full-time employees of those organizations didn’t know I was a Co-op student; they thought I was a recently hired entry-level employee.

That being said, just because you are employed and you are doing the duties on your job description, and some that are not on your job description (“other duties as assigned”), don’t think that you are all set.  As you get into the first few months of Co-op and approach the halfway point, this is the time to take action; here are some tips and advice for you to consider:

Ask for feedback!  Yes, employers are asked to complete a formal evaluation of their Co-op students at the conclusion of Co-op, but what good is that going to do if you could have corrected mistakes or otherwise made improvements early on in your experience?  This can be formal or informal, in writing or expressed verbally…there are no rules when it comes to seeking feedback.

Ask questions!  If you are unsure of a specific project, procedure, timeline, or expectations, ASK!  Do not assume.  Also, don’t think that it makes you look dumb because you are asking questions.  In fact, it shows the opposite.

Ask for more work! (*This is only to be done after you have proven capable of completing the initial, basic tasks you were assigned.)  Go beyond your comfort zone and seek out additional assignments and responsibilities.  Show your value and your ability to go above and beyond.

Start networking if you have not done so already.  Either with an assist from your supervisor or by yourself, seek out staff members in different departments and introduce yourself.  Get to know the people in charge and make a name for yourself; ask for their business cards and stay on their radar for the future.

Communicate your successes (and even your failures) back to Drexel.  Let your professors, academic advisor, and Co-op Coordinator know how things are going.  Don’t just go to them with your problems or concerns.  Tell them about the exciting work you are doing, who you are meeting, and how this may or may not impact your future plans.

Mark Gress is the Associate Director of Employer Relations for Arcadia University with a Masters Degree from Drexel University.  Mark formerly worked as Co-Op Coordinator and Manager of Employer Relations for the Steinbright Career Development Center at Drexel University.  He also has experience with Turnkey Sports and Entertainment, Philadelphia Eagles, and Drexel Athletics. Follow Mark on Twitter @MGressArcadia.

Connect with Mark Gress on LinkedIn. 

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