It can be a huge relief to finally get through all the applications and interviews when you secure your first co-op, but the work isn’t over. In fact, it’s only just begun. While there are many benefits to being on co-op (no homework!) it is also a huge time commitment, and if you’re not prepared for it, the changes can hit you unexpectedly. Here are some tips to make the transition from student to full-time employee as smooth as possible.
- Be Prepared to Change Your Sleep Schedule
Many college students stay up late doing homework, but when you’re on co-op, all of that has to change. One of the biggest adjustments for night-owls like me is setting a time to go to bed and having to wake up much earlier than usual to get ready for a day in the office. Getting plenty of sleep is essential to get through those eight-hour days. It might take some time to get used to falling asleep earlier, but once you get settled into a consistent sleep schedule, you’ll feel much better for it.
- Know How Long It’ll Take to Get There (and Be Early!)
While it may seem obvious, it is very important to know how long your chosen form of transportation will take and to recognize that in Boston, it is very likely to take longer expected. No matter how long your commute is, it is always a good idea to know your route in advance and plan accordingly. I like to check for alerts and delays to make sure that I can get to work on time. Over the course of your first week, you will become more familiar with the timing of trains (or traffic) and become better acquainted with getting around Boston or another city your job is in. So remember, when you want to hit snooze one more time, it’s better to be early than late!
- Pack Your Bag With Essentials
Part of being prepared for a long day is making sure you have everything you need with you. Even if you don’t need everything each day, it is helpful to have certain items on hand just in case. In trading in my backpack full of books for a work bag with key essentials to get me through the day, I found that I needed to reconsider what I keep with me. For co-op, I always bring a small pack of tissues and a chapstick in my work bag. You never know when you’ll catch a cold or feel particularly chapped from the winter wind. Also helpful in the winter is a small bottle of lotion to keep skin, particularly hands, soft and moisturized. It is a good idea to have spare feminine products to keep unpleasant surprises to a minimum. I also keep headphones (great for the commute) and a book to read at lunch if I have spare time. Finally, I always have mints and floss in my bag to freshen up after lunch and avoid any unnecessary embarrassment.
- Have a Plan for Lunch
As a student, lunch is easy to find on campus. Once you transition to co-op, you have to learn a new routine and you won’t always be able to get lunch with your friends. If you prefer to buy lunch, find some good spots in the area before your first day. That way, you’ll know what your nearby options are and it’ll be easier to fit your meal into the time you have for lunch. If you’re like me and like to try to bring lunch with you most days, it is a good idea to prepare food the night before or bring leftovers from dinner. Make sure to use a secure container to avoid any possible spills or leaks. On your first day, check to see if there is a refrigerator and a microwave in the break room that you can use. Being able to keep your food cold or warm it up will make it much easier to mix up what you bring to eat each day. Finally, don’t forget to bring a fork or spoon with you unless you know there are extras at work.
- Bring a Snack (and a Water Bottle)
On the same note, having a snack with you will keep hunger at bay while you try to focus on your work. Bringing something quick and easy to eat will ensure that you get through the day. Staying hydrated is just as important, and I like to bring a reusable water bottle that I can fill up as needed. On cold days, it might just be necessary to stop by Dunkin’ or Starbucks on the way to work to get something warm.
Being on co-op is a great way to learn and find a path for the future, and being well-prepared is key to making the most of the opportunity. The first week is when you start to settle in and learn how things work around the office, making it the best time to meet people, make connections, and set yourself up for an enjoyable six months. Bringing everything you need and planning ahead will help to take the edge off the new challenges of going to work every day and developing a completely new routine. Soon enough, that first week will be over and you’ll start to feel like a real member of the team.