We heard some great advice from our students, but we want to give you some tips of our own on what you should do to make sure your co-op an amazing experience and also how to benefit from it after it’s over. Some of you are just starting, some of you nearing the end. Rest assured, there are tips for all facets of co-op students.
1. First, make a “co-op bucket list” It’s great to have an idea of what you want to accomplish at your co-op, even if you’re halfway through. These can be a combination of professional, social and personal goals. Maybe you’re in Philly and you want to try a real Philly cheesesteak, go swimming in the Atlantic, read War and Peace, see a Broadway show in NYC, ride a horse, or just plain ol’ getting caught up with Mad Men. Anything that YOU want to do! We encourage some professional things too, like reading a certain nonfiction book, learn a new skill, have a one-on-one lunch with your boss, etc. Whatever you think can help you achieve success and happiness.
2. Make connections. Immediately when you start and before you leave, invite co-workers and supervisors to connect with you on LinkedIn, or other social media. Constantly network when you’re there. Those professional connections can help you later on.
3. Be social! You’re co-op will not be fun if you’re by yourself the whole time. Maybe you’re going on this co-op with a few RIT people, but maybe not so see if there is a Facebook co-op/intern group for that company, or if not, start one! Try getting other co-op students and interns together early on to hang out, go out to dinner, get to know each other. Before you leave, do the same thing. Your co-op experience is a thing to celebrate!
4. Explore the area. Get to know the culture of the city you are in. Even though you’re not from there, you might find some interest that you share with those from the city. Maybe you’re into gardening and the city you’re in had the nation’s biggest gardening expo… ANYTHING. There is bound to be something there for you. Think about attending events outside of work (and invite some work friends of course). Maybe choose a specific day of the week to just go around the city and explore with some friends. You can plan to go to events, or be spontaneous, whatever floats your boat.
5. Join groups/clubs. On top of just exploring what that city has to offer, see what interest groups there are. You might find one through work, maybe a book club, film lovers, performing arts group, gamers, etc. This will give you something to look forward to outside of work and meet people with similar interests.
6. When you’re finished, make sure you’re actually finished. Don’t leave any loose strings. Make sure all of your projects are complete (in fact, some co-ops begin lightening your work load near the end of the co-op because they know you’ll be leaving soon) and you did them to the best of your ability. When you want your boss to write you a recommendation, you want them to remember that you did all of your work and didn’t drift off before you left. Then, make sure you say your goodbyes! Don’t just disappear one day (maybe you’re company is nice enough to have a goodbye party), so go around the office on your last day, make your rounds, hang out with your co-op friends one last time, and overall have a good time. Thank everyone for their support.
7. Lastly, fill out your report and get feedback from your supervisor. You need to fill out a co-op report every time you do one. It’s best to do it right before you’re done, so it’s still fresh in your mind. Then, make sure your supervisor fills out their work evaluation as well. Take time to sit down with them and maybe give you one-on-one feedback. Constructive criticism is good and is a very professional gesture.