Getting out of your comfort zone can be one of the hardest things you experience as you grow up. We often do things that we are not usually comfortable doing to improve ourselves. Drexel provides something that very few other colleges provide and in my opinion, it prepares students for the real world very well.
Coops can be very intimidating, but if you don’t challenge yourself you are really not stepping out of your comfort zone, which means you are not truly growing as an individual.
There are many things I wish I knew before my first coop and there are a lot of situations I wish I had handled differently. I don’t regret how things went and I am glad they went that way because if they didn’t, I might have not learned at all.
One of the most important things to ask yourself would be what kind of company you want to work for. Some students like myself never put a thought into this on our first coop and were just eager to get a job. That does not have to be the case. The main thing about being successful in anything is preparation. Asking yourself questions like, “Do I want to be in a big company or a small one, a startup or a multinational?” gives you a head start. I personally worked for a huge multinational company where I learned a lot of things about what I might want to pursue in the future. Some students don’t want to take an offer because it might be from a small company or a new one. Some of my friends got offers from start-ups and and got their visas sponsored while others were offered a part-time job after their coop. Working for a small company doesn’t necessarily mean less opportunity. At the end of the day, it’s the experience that matters the most and the relationships you build during that time.
One of the things I wished I had done was take more initiatives right from the start instead of waiting for people to notice me. An approach most coops might not take is to reach out to other teams or even other departments and ask for different projects. It is easier to get noticed in a small company, but reaching out to other managers and even other coops can greatly help you in the long run. Some may think once their work is done they will just lay low and not ask for any other projects until they are given one, but that is not the best way to make the most out of the opportunity given to you by the company and by Drexel.
Another important aspect is getting to know about the position and job description before accepting or even applying for a job. Many students may have the mentality that they will be happy with any job since it’s their first coop. I felt the same way and I didn’t like my offers during A round. Students should not be afraid of going to B rounds or even C rounds. From experience, I got a better offer in B round and ended up taking it. In my opinion, it’s a myth that A round has the best companies and offers. Self-searching, reaching out to alumni over LinkedIn or going to career fairs and dropping your resumes builds your network and makes a good impression on employers. After all, at the end of the day it’s all about selling yourself.
Asking employers questions about the job description, the company, the dynamic of the team or even the manager shows your interest to learn about them and prepare. Asking employers about day to day work or responsibilities is not a bad thing; you are not just getting interviewed, but at the same time you are interviewing them and they enjoy talking about their work.
Co-op can be challenging and intimidating but luckily for Drexel students that is part of the Drexel experience, which in turn prepares us for the life after graduation.