How Can I Make My Co-op a Successful Experience?
Getting Off on the Right Foot
It’s always important to make a good first impression, so plan carefully how you will conduct yourself as a new employee of organization, and how you will relate to and interact with your supervisor and co-workers.
Here are a few “best practices” to help you launch a successful co-op experience.
Dress the Part
Look for clues from your supervisor and other staff members about appropriate dress. Dress neatly and professionally for your position. If you have questions about the particular dress code, ask your supervisor. During your first few weeks on the job, it’s better to be more conservative than casual in your attire.
Be There…Every Day
Make sure you know how long it will take you to get to work, find a place to park, and actually get settled at your desk. Do a test drive in rush-hour traffic before you start your co-op. There are no excuses for being late.
Unless you encounter a true emergency situation, maintain a flawless attendance record, and, if invited, attend all staff meetings and regularly scheduled seminars and programs. If you do need to be absent, make sure you contact your supervisor well in advance.
A Good Attitude Goes a Long Way
A positive, upbeat “can do” attitude is essential to making a good, first impression. Your ability to relate to your co-workers in a friendly and respectful fashion will set the stage for your co-op experience. It will be noticed and commented upon from day one! If you demonstrate a good attitude, a high level of dependability and willingness to work hard, your supervisor will be more likely to trust you with interesting and challenging projects.
Use Technology Wisely
With 24/7 access to Internet, e-mail, Google, Twitter, and Facebook, it is very tempting to use the company’s computer to carry on your life outside of work. Don’t do it! In most organizations, the company is only giving you a computer to conduct their business. E-mailing your friends to set up a party on Friday night, sending “Tweets” or surfing the Internet for vacation spots can get you fired. Companies can and do monitor their employees’ computer usage.
Learn the Organizational Culture and Company Policies
Every organization has its own way of doing business, adheres to specific policies, and has certain performance expectations of its employees. Before you start your position, reread the company web site to become better acquainted with your organization, its various departments, products, and services. Make sure you also understand the specific responsibilities of your position description and any policies related to the company’s co-op program.
Once you are on the job, observe how people and different departments interact and relate to one another. Inquire about the best way to get oriented to your new environment. Some companies with well established co-op programs have a formal orientation schedule and others may just give you a tour and point you in the direction of basic resources. Ask your supervisor for an organizational chart and any important company policies and procedures so you can more quickly understand how things work and adhere to company regulations.
Establish Your Accountability through Learning Objectives
Meet with your supervisor within the first month of co-op to discuss goals (learning objectives) and expectations. Then complete 3-5 Learning Objectives and submit to the Co-op Office. Document your objectives and indicators of achievement on the Mid-Term Learning Objectives and Performance Indicators form so that it is clear to you and your supervisor how your work will be evaluated throughout the work period. Twice during your co-op employment, you will review, assess, and submit your learning objectives to the Office of Career Services.
How will I be Evaluated on My Co-op Experience?
It is our hope that your on-site supervisor will offer you feedback throughout your employment period. At the end of your employment, your supervisor will discuss your progress toward your established learning objectives and conduct a formal performance evaluation. In addition, at the conclusion of your co-op employment, we will ask you to submit to the Office of Career Services a candid and confidential evaluation of your organization and co-op experience.
You are responsible for the timely submission of the following documents to the Office of Career Services.
- Within the first month:
- Set-up of Learning Objectives and Performance Indicators
- During the Co-op experience:
- Information interview
- Employer brochure
- Last two weeks:
- Final Student Evaluation
- Final Student Evaluation of Co-op Employment Site