Why It's Okay Not to Get a Co-op Job

 

When I was 16, I decided I wanted to work at the public library. I honestly didn’t even consider that I could earn money by working there: I literally just wanted to organize books, because I’m that much of a nerd. I agonized over the job application for at least a month. This was my first time ever applying for a job, and I really wanted it, so I was terrified of screwing up. I googled “how to write a cover letter” and “resume tips.” I wrote what was probably a vague, pompous application that would embarrass the crap out of me to read now.

 

Eventually, I surrendered my application and, to my surprise, got an interview. Then, to my even greater surprise, I passed the interview, the math test, and the literacy test, and was offered the job. I later discovered that I happened to apply just as the system desperately needed more people of my position, so I got super lucky. At the time, though, I glowed with pride. I was hired the very first time I ever applied for a job—I must have been the greatest applicant to ever live! I was invincible!

 

For the next two years, I shelved books and kept the library tidy, loving every second of it, but I had to quit when I moved away from home to attend UVic. I then applied to the UVic library, got an interview, and was not a successful candidate. I was shocked to be turned down, especially by another library. Being hired by the public library spoiled me: I didn’t know how to handle rejection. My confidence was so shaken that I could barely even enter UVic’s library during first year without feeling shame and resentment. I couldn’t understand how I wasn’t hired for a job that was so clearly perfect for me.

The real sting of rejection came this spring when I was trying to get my first co-op term for the summer. I submitted applications for about 12 co-op jobs and did six interviews. At every interview, I shook hands, I smiled brightly, and sometimes I even tried to be funny. The interviewers usually seemed to like me; they would act impressed when I answered questions, or laugh at my jokes. I always left feeling confident, like, “This is it! I finally got a job!”

 

 

Then, inevitably, I would receive the rejection email, or the radio silence that says the same: Thank you for meeting with us. You were not the successful applicant. Cheers.

After each rejection came the same spiral of emotions: disappointment that I didn’t get this job so suited to me; regret that I didn’t prepare more for the interview; fury that I wasted my time on yet another company that did not hire me; and frustration that I had failed again.

 

Now, I realize that I should have started my work search much sooner than I did—I submitted my first application in March because I was too picky about what sort of position I wanted. I was also trying to get a job in Victoria, one of the more competitive co-op locations because of the number of UVic students who want to stay there for the summer. But at the time, all I could think was that there must be something wrong with me.

Why did this keep happening to me? Was I really that awkward? Was I not as qualified as I thought? Did I completely misread every interviewer? Did I just suck?

 

Around mid-May, I resigned myself to my fate of a co-op-less summer and found myself a regular job at a souvenir store in downtown Victoria. Being offered the job right at the end of the interview brought me little joy; I figured they would hire just about anyone. It’s only retail, I thought. Not as good as a co-op job.

 

 

As it turned out, I really liked working at the souvenir store. My co-workers were friendly and hardworking; most tourists are cheerful, patient customers because they’re in vacation mode; and I loved talking to people from all over the world. Even folding T-shirts and restocking snow globes was more interesting than I had imagined. I also gained a ton of customer service experience, used a cash register and followed a cash out procedure, learned how to arrange displays, and even applied my second language for the first time ever.

 

Even though there were many co-op jobs that I really wanted, I still gained valuable work experience at my regular summer job. I’ve continued to work there part-time this semester, which is not always an option with co-op positions. While I would have liked a co-op term on my record this summer, this job will also go on my resume and be yet another reason a co-op employer may hire me in the future.

 

So don’t be discouraged! Even if you don’t get a work term this semester, try to find another job and gain experience the old fashioned way. Then, maybe next time you’ll find a co-op employer. Or maybe you don’t need a co-op at all and you can make your way to your dream career by taking regular jobs. It doesn’t matter where your experience comes from, as long as you continue to build your resume throughout university so that you can land a fantastic position when you graduate. You got this!