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The Highs and Lows of Seeking a Co-op Job

As I hit “submit” on my 40th job application of my co-op seeking semester, I took a deep breath and sunk into my chair, the stark reality sinking into me slowly. Despite my three years of undergrad at SFU, was I still not qualified enough to get a job in the ‘real world?’

I thought back to all the articles I read about student experience on co-operative education semesters, and how wonderful everyone’s time was. Unfortunately, I did not feel like one of them at the time, and my 15 rejection letters were a testimony to that. Fast forward three months later with an excellent co-op job in hand, let’s talk about the less glamorous part of co-op that everyone seems to avoid mentioning: the seeking semester.

The less glamorous side of the co-op job seeking and why it needs to be talked about: creating 30+ job applications, doing countless cover letter edits, and the dwindling sense of self-worth. This experience was of substantial meaning to me because of how truly isolated I felt during the seeking semester, and how many of my friends from previous semesters have echoed the same emotion as I did.

For the most part, I read a lot on topics like transitioning into corporate after school, meaning I was taking in the perspective of a successful candidate. Although I am happy to have received my co-op and now be that “successful candidate,” for the most part in my journey I did not feel like that way, despite the multiplicity of personal achievements I attained in my time at SFU. It is important for me to discuss my experience in the seeking semester with emphasis on its pithy in highs and equal agony in lows. In this article, I will be exploring the theme of finding one’s self in complicated times, as the pandemic has changed a lot of things, especially co-op.

So, what is seeking? In the co-op practicum, seeking is when an entire semester is dedicated to searching for 4 or 8 month term internships. Often times, this period is very testing. Students will often apply to anywhere between 10 to 15 job postings, only to hear back from one. It can leave you feeling exhausting, defeated, and sometimes even depressed. The stark reality, however, is that this is very normal. 

Most students are not likely to open up about these feelings simply because of how embarrassed they may feel, but I’d like to assure you that this happens more often than you’d even imagine! Just as it is important to remember that your self-worth is not directly proportionate to your grades, it is crucial to recognize that your ability or inability to get an internship does not depend on your value as a candidate. More often than not, the hiring criteria is incredibly stern and it comes down to the minutest details. When stress is high and rejections are pooling in, it is normal for your attention to detail to shrink, ever so slightly. Do not beat yourself up! Chances are that you will get a job, it may just not be the first or second one you apply to. 

Here’s a few things you can do to keep your spirits high when you feel like your world might just be falling apart:

Seek Guidance

The academic and professional advisors at university are your friend. They are here to help you. Do not shy away from negative emotions, and remember that feedback is a gift! Be receptive to critique and be open about how you feel. Your mental health is of utmost priority and if you feel like that is being compromised at any point in time, be willing to take a step back and prioritize self-care. The counsellors at your university are always there to help you! 

Refrain From Obsessively Checking Success Stories

Yes, success stories are a great way to motivate you and help create a mental pave way for you to reach your goal. But everyone’s journey and mission is different! Focus on your own accomplishments, tap into your inner subconscious and ask yourself what makes you YOU! Employers aren’t looking for the candidate with the best experience, they’re looking for candidates that are the best fit for their organization. If you’re able to let your personality do the talking and couple that with your valid professional, volunteer and academic experience, you have a strong chance at getting your dream internship! 

Accept tHAT tHINGS mAY nOT gO aCCORDING tO pLAN, AND THAT’S OKAY!

I had a friend that cried for days over not getting an internship they worked really hard to get, only to be accepted into Microsoft as a Junior Software Engineer the following semester. The trajectory of life is often mystical in its own way – you never know where life can take you! It may sound cheesy but every closed door is another door opening, and remembering this during your co-op or internship seeking semester is of utmost importance. 

One day, in the midst of co-op madness, my advisor asked me how I was doing, to which I replied saying “I’ve had better days.” Little did I know, even better days were right around the corner. So keep your head and spirits high and good luck during your seeking semester!

Kirtana is a 4th year student at SFU pursuing an honours degree in Communication and a minor in Business. She is interested in business consultancy and the data-driven research behind marketing. Outside of school and work, she is an adrenaline and nature junkie. Her favourite travel experience so far has been bungee jumping in Whistler, B.C! Reach out to her via LinkedIn at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kirtanamenonn/
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