By Robbin Beauchamp, Assistant Provost, Co-ops & Careers
It’s that time of the semester again. We are weeks away from the start of the semester and add/drop, the last day a student can register for their co-op. I am sharing ways to reduce your anxiety and how to obtain a co-op.
Here is what my eight years in Co-ops & Careers, as well as being a parent to two college students, has taught me:
- Students who are actively involved overwhelming are successful. This means that the student needs to stay in contact with their Co-op & Career Advisor via email or meetings. When the Advisor knows what the student is doing, how they are conducting their search, what they are seeking, the Advisor can be more effective in helping. The student who we never hear from or hear from one week before add/drop are the ones we worry about the most.
- Students need to send out at least 40 resumes and cover letters. At least!! This is hard to do, especially when they are taking a full class load. But they won’t get a job if they don’t apply. The wider the net, the more opportunities they will catch. Use the resources and remember, WITworks is just one resources. Students can find a co-op anywhere.
- Students need to attend networking events. We offered one in June just for fall co-ops and graduating students to find jobs. We were thrilled with the student turnout. They did great! We are offering a weeklong co-op fair in October just for spring co-op students. Hundreds of employers will attend. Students who attend will be much more successful in their search. We are also hosting Wentworth on the Road in November to bring students to employer sites to see first-hand how these organizations work and to network.
- When employers do reach out, the student must reply quickly. Students need to monitor their emails and voice messages and call the employer back within one workday. This sounds so basic, but I have witnessed the lack of responsiveness.
- When the student does receive an offer to interview, they should take it. Some students assume they don’t want a job/co-op based on nothing substantial. An interview is as much for the candidate to assess an employer as it is for the employer to assess the candidate. After an interview, the student will have more information to make a decision.
- The student needs to be well prepared to interview. At least a few hours before the interview, the student should review the company website to understand what the organization does, who their customers are, and glean any tidbits that will help in the conversation. The student should read the job description again and be sure they can highlight their strengths as they align with the job description. The student should also send another copy of their resume to the person who has invited them to interview to ensure that they have it. It is a gracious gesture.
- So many interviews are virtual and that makes it so much easier than in-person interviews. Students are getting sloppy. I am hearing from employers that candidates are showing up for their virtual interviews in t-shirts with messy hair and poor lighting. Candidates must present well to be taken seriously. Therefore, at least from the waist up, they need to wear business or business/casual attire. Collared shirts or a top that would be worn under a suit jacket. Hair brushed and away from the face. Lighting that allows the interviewer to feel like the student is in the same room. Students can always change their background in virtual spaces, so no one sees what is truly behind them. There is an old saying that is not mine, but I use it often: dress for the job you want, not the job you have.
- The co-op search doesn’t end until the student accepts an official offer. That means interviewing with multiple organizations simultaneously. Some students think it rude to interview with a different company once they interview with one. That they are somehow being unfaithful or dishonest. They need to get over that. Employers expect candidates, especially good ones, to be in high demand in this economy. Students should not put the brakes on until they have an offer of a co-op in hand. Once they do accept an offer, the student must contact all other employers and withdraw from their search. This is a professional practice that will benefit the student as a candidate long-term. Employers remember candidates who acted professionally as much as they remember those who don’t.
- Finally, the student must register for their co-op AND report their hire in WITworks by the add/drop deadline or all of this is for nothing. Once the add/drop deadline has passed, the school will not allow them to get co-op credit.
The moral of the story: students must continue to be fully engaged in the search, starting at least a semester before their scheduled co-op semester (two semesters if an athlete or international student).