It has become quite popular for colleges to participate in co-op programs. If any of you do not know what a co-op is, the full definition is; a cooperative society, business, or enterprise. This is where students, like myself, are able to get the job experience they want while going to school. It usually switches off every semester between schooling and your co-op. It’s a great experience because you learn what you like to do, which companies you’re interested in, and even grow to know yourself better as a professional.
I am a third year at the University of Cincinnati. Currently, I am in the DAAP (Design, Architect, Art, Planning) program, majoring in Fine Arts. In fine arts, you can do almost anything your heart desires if you have the ambition to. Most of our core classes consist of 2D, 3D, and digital arts to gain more foundation knowledge and eventually become advanced at these skills. Most people in my class want to become painters, sculptures, and photographers, however that is not always the case. People like me who don’t have a set medium, need to guide their own projects in order accomplish their goal.
My passion has always been interior decorating. I love arranging furniture, deciding paint swatches, observing textures, and all that goes into the final production. Many people ask me why I didn’t go into the interior design program at DAAP. The main reason is because interior design is more structural (dealing with the wall and window placements), and decorating is more involved with furniture. I also am more attracted to art and creating things hands on.
Knowing that it was going to be harder to find a co-op focused on what I wanted to do within fine arts, I started to research. I reached out to as many companies as I knew, tried to make connections and see if people I knew had any connections with interior decorators, and most of all showed my co-op advisor that I was determined. It was not an easy process. It was one of the most challenging things I have ever done. So much effort and hard work were put into my resume and portfolio to make sure I was going to get a job. I then sent out twenty applications through the university’s system and played the waiting game.
A few weeks passed and I still didn’t hear anything from the employers. I wondered if I had done something wrong or if my accomplishments weren’t good enough. During this time, we had our undergraduate review for Fine Arts. I picked out my best pieces of artwork; drawings, paintings, ceramics, and more. I even included interior decorating projects I had guided myself. There were over twenty pieces of work, so I really thought I was going to do well. Four judges were there to critique the work. One of them happened to be my favorite teacher who knew of my career goal and helped me with it, and another one was a visiting artist who I’ve never met before. After I had explained to them what I wanted to do with my major, the visiting artist shot me down. She told me I was in the wrong place and I should think about switching schools. She also mentioned switching to interior design, which I explained to her I didn’t want to do. My favorite teacher tried standing up for me, as did I, but after hearing what was said I just felt embarrassed. I felt like I had wasted a whole three years for nothing. There are no words to describe how defeated I was in that moment. I was lost and didn’t know what to do next; whether it was to stay in art school and try to figure things out or transfer schools.
Suddenly, a life-changing event happened. Almost two hours after my horrible review, my phone rang and it one of my favorite companies I had applied to answered. Their positive attitude and interest made me believe that this must be fate. The phone conversation went so well she wanted to interview me in person. A few weeks later I drove down to their company and talked with them for forty minutes and landed my dream job. Everything seemed so in place like it was meant to happen. I am now going to be doing what I love. All I needed to do was have a little patience and hope.
So I recommend to all of the fellow students trying to find a co-op to:
- Make yourself an outstanding resume and portfolio (It’s your time to brag about yourself!)
- Make connections! Make as MANY connections as possible and let your advisors know you’re really passionate.
- Send out lots of applications. It doesn’t hurt to send it out in bulk because you never know which company will spark an interest. Also, keep an open mind for your co-ops. The first one is always the hardest to find and it is almost never your dream job.
- Have a positive attitude! Make sure you have patience and hope during this process.
- LAND YOUR CO-OP! Always be yourself during an interview. However intimidating the employer may be, they are just trying to get to know you. So have fun with it and show them your passion! Eventually, all this will lead you to success.