The University of Waterloo is highly renowned for its co-op system and claims to have the largest co-op program in the world.
Many students expect guaranteed co-op placements at their dream job. However, for many the reality is anything but.
“It is really competitive to get co-op jobs…I didn’t get any interviews for the jobs I applied to in the main round, but I kept trying and finally secured my job,” said second-year medicinal chemistry student Julie Dang. For her first co-op placement, Dang was able to work in the Smith Research Group in the chemistry department at UW.
As a science student, Dang said she believes it is difficult to land a job that is relevant to what one is studying and wishes there were more jobs in science since the co-op experience is great as long as it’s related to one’s program.
“You really experience what applying for jobs in real life is, along with all the rejections and dealing with rejections…show you’re passionate about what you want to do. Try to volunteer…Networking is also a great way to meet potential employers,” Dang said.
UW offers many non-credit training courses and programs, including professional development courses that teach students how to prepare for interviews, perfect their resumes, deal with conflict and work as a team. The EDGE program is also a great way to develop the many valuable skills employers look for and non-co-op students are also eligible to participate.
Yue-Chi-Ming Mary Melissa Pearl, a second-year accounting and financial management student, applied for her first co-op through WaterlooWorks, which she said was “very easy to navigate.”
“There are so many resources available. If ever you are not sure, just email your co-op advisor,” Pearl said. “The most important thing is to apply to as many jobs as possible and don’t be picky, especially in the beginning.”
UW students can also apply to co-op placements outside of Canada — as was the case with Rishabh Ballkoram, a third-year math and financial analysis and risk management (FARM) student.
Though Ballkoram initially applied for co-op placements through WaterlooWorks, he ended up applying to external placements by himself due to a lack of job offers.
“Gaining work experience and soft skills, such as advanced Excel knowledge, prior to starting university is a plus. Employers always value prior experience,” Ballkoram said.
Though UW is recognized for its co-op programs, the process can be much harder than it seems, especially for students applying for their first co-op.
“But as you do more co-ops and gain more experience, the process gets easier and easier,” Ballkoram added.