One of the biggest perks of going to Northeastern is the co-op program.
It’s what we’re known for. It’s basically why everybody here is, well, here. Of course, there is a copious amount of other reasons as to why people go here–the campus, the city, the international community, the research, the growing prestige–but I’m just going to focus on the co-op.
Co-op is great; there is no doubt about it. Having even one co-op raises your job prospects because it signals to employers that you have experience, whether it’s in customer service, data entry, research and analysis…the possibilities are endless. That gives you an edge over students in other colleges who don’t have any internships or co-ops under their belt. It’s better to be required to complete an internship than not, because by default, the cost of looking for an internship can be high for people who are taking classes and have other commitments.
(Also, you don’t have to take classes while you’re on it. No homework. Freedom every night!)
Alright, so I’ve talked a bit about the benefits. Now, I’ll tell you the costs (because, as an economics major, I can’t go wrong with a cost-benefit analysis) in the form of five basic stages we all go through when we apply for co-op.
1. You apply for jobs mid-February or late February (depending on whether or not you are applying to your first co-op). You go through classes, clubs, and volunteering, incessantly checking your e-mail to see if someone with an unfamiliar first and last name has sent you an e-mail with “interview” on the subject line. Nope, just a bunch of spam.
2. The hours turn into days, the days turn into weeks, and you still haven’t heard from anyone. You decide to go on myNEU COOL, the co-op database, and look at the status of your application. Glancing at the icons to the side of each job link, you scroll down to the legend at the bottom that describes your job application status–all of them are envelopes; some envelopes have red x’s, some of them are green…and of course, the one you dread to see, the icon of impending doom–the lock over the envelope–the rejection. But you don’t. So it’s all good for now.
3. One day, you casually glance at your e-mails, not expecting to see an unfamiliar name. You look over at the subject line–it has the word “interview” in it. Your heart skips a beat. You begin to sweat profusely. You notice a slight tremble in your hands as you drag your finger on the laptop pad towards the e-mail. You click on it, and you see a “I hope this note finds you well” or a “Congratulations!” You sigh in relief, scanning the e-mail at first, too nervous to actually understand it. You made it to step one, now’s the real test.
4. You look up everything you can about the company–from when it started to what its current opportunities and challenges are (as well as everything in between). You start writing down questions and rehearsing them to the point of storing them in long-term memory (at least that’s what your goal is). You think about why you worked at that random organization that has nothing to do with your career path and you prepare about 70 questions that an interviewer can possibly ask you. You’re kind of ready, and you dress for success to nail that interview. However, you’re really bad at walking in heels, so it feels uncomfortable while you walk on the street. You act like you know what you’re doing, but you really have no idea how to look professional.
5. It’s time to interview. You wake up feeling nervous, but somewhat prepared. As you enter the tall, intimidating building, you see people all around you wearing business suits and nice shoes. You check in with the receptionist, trying to be as warm and polite as you possibly can, and you sit down on the chair in the waiting room. The interviewer comes out to greet you with a warm smile and a firm handshake. You and the interviewer enter an office, where she asks you to tell you a bit about yourself and why you’re interested in the company and the position. You’re dying on the inside, but on the outside, you’re all smiles and confidence. The session ends, the interviewer says goodbye and tells you to keep in touch, and you’re left wondering whether or not you did well. This precarious situation seems like an eternity.
Sorry to leave you hanging on that note. I’m currently applying to my second co-op (obviously, I’ve gotten my first already, so you know how that ended up), but the stakes are much higher for this one because you need to compete with other well-qualified candidates–your first co-op is difficult, yes, but it’s kind of a “practice,” in my opinion. It’s to see whether or not you can successfully complete administrative tasks. This co-op, though, is more likely to require multiple interviewers, a timed essay (like I have tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. for my dream employer), or analytical tasks as a test to see how you think. It has been very stressful for me, and I believe it’s stressful for other people; however, no one really talks about the toll it takes on them. Hopefully, I will attain the co-op at my dream employer so I’ll have better prospects on getting a job there after I graduate. This is what really goes behind closed doors on co-op. It’s wonderful, don’t get me wrong–it’s just stressful. To anyone out there reading this who is applying to a co-op at this moment–good luck!