My name is Regan, and I am a fourth-year psychology student at Carleton. I am also enrolled in the Co-operative Education option of my degree and am currently working on my first co-op work term. There are many things I love about co-op; the opportunity to learn, grow and challenge myself in a real working environment are all things that have allowed me to learn lots about myself and what I want to get out of my degree. However, there are times when the challenges that come with co-op can be overwhelming, and I think most co-op students would agree that the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t made anything easier. It was more competitive to find a job, harder to adapt, and difficult find motivation to participate in a co-op with everything being online.
There are thousands of students enrolled in the co-op program at Carleton across all programs, both undergraduates and graduates. Across all these different programs, students face similar stressors when embarking on their co-op journey. These range from networking and searching for jobs, interviewing for jobs, deciding how to handle back to back work terms, managing taking a course while on a work term, and participating in work projects.
For me, the hardest part of my co-op journey so far has been job searching. Not only because of the pandemic, but also because I have back to back work terms. I have to decide whether I want to stay in my current placement if an extension is possible or try new things and dive back into the uncertainty of job searching. It’s a little unsettling, as it feels like I am constantly preparing for the future while not really appreciating the present. This is a challenge that many co-op students face.
The Co-op Office has done a great job at bringing awareness to these stressors, and advocates for open discussions with the Co-op Student Advisors that each co-op student is assigned with. They are there to answer any questions and help create an individualized plan for action. The Co-op Office also puts in enormous effort to put on workshops to help teach important work place skills that might help secure a job. In addition, there are many additional support services that Carleton offers too including walk-ins at the counselling center. My personal favourite are the emotional support dogs! It also helps to connect with other co-op students who may be working for the same employer or in the same degree, as it’s important to realize that you are not alone in whatever you are feeling while on, or searching for a work term placement.
Despite the obstacles and stress, I have thoroughly enjoyed my co-op experience so far and would recommend it to anyone! It’s a great opportunity to experiment with different types of jobs in different environments and learn about how you handle different situations!
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