A guide to finding your first co-op (or fifth!)


So, you’re at that stage where you have to start looking for a co-op job. Whether it’s the first or last time, everyone who participates in the co-op program understands the stress often associated with the job-search period. After having completed five co-op terms and interned for three different companies, I am free from the search for co-op jobs and internships. However, I have now taken the plunge into finding a “real” job. The co-op experience I went through is helping me go through this search with relative ease, and as such, I wanted to provide assistance to those who might be struggling with finding a co-op so that they might have an easier time of it in the future.

Find the right portals

WaterlooWorks can be a useful tool. However, I only found a job on the main job-postings page once (albeit an eight-month co-op, so two terms) so I was able to use other job boards listed in the “External Job Boards” tab to find jobs more aligned with my needs. As an international student, I was often restricted to jobs that weren’t supplemented by OSAP, permanent residency requirements, or security clearance. As an engineer, those restrictions can be tough, especially when using a job portal aimed to hire university students who very likely meet those requirements. Through external job boards such as Discover Technata, Indeed, LinkedIn, and Talent.com, I sought applications to more than just the jobs available under “Hire Waterloo Co-Op.”

If you’re having trouble finding a job this semester, widen the search. This works especially when you haven’t had the strongest academic record: if you apply only on “Hire Waterloo Co-Op,” you are competing with students of the highest caliber at our university. These jobs require you to submit your unofficial transcript, which could hinder you if your academic record is sub-par. If you are looking to avoid the stress and competitive nature of that process, external job boards might help — here, your resume and your experience have a higher impact than your grades.

Using LinkedIn

LinkedIn — the Facebook for corporate know-it-alls and snake-oil salesmen. Although LinkedIn has become more crowded with “opportunities,” few are legitimate. If you’re in the business stream, this is particularly important. The sea of misinformation can be difficult to navigate, so it is important to curate your LinkedIn feed carefully:. 

  • Use LinkedIn to build a strong network: My friends in accounting and financial management (AFM) and computing and financial management (better known as AFM and CFM) re-iterated one simple fact to me when I asked what LinkedIn is important for — having 500+ connections. Networking extensively through LinkedIn shows that you are actively seeking opportunities and connections.
  • Stay connected to your profession: I wish to work in the automobile industry, so my LinkedIn is full of race teams in Formula 1, 2, and 3, as well as every major car manufacturer. Amongst these, I have also had a chance to connect with people working at these companies, from engineers to researchers to marketing teams. If you want to be in a particular industry, start by seeing what the professional make-up of the industry is. It will help you tailor what you want to do.
  • Use your connections: Once you have a network of people and you know what you want to do, you’ll want to find out how to get started. Reach out to your connections and see if they’d be willing to have a 15-20 minute chat over a video-call or coffee if you live nearby. Understand their journey, take notes, and you might be able to understand what next steps you have to take.

Building a CV/resume

Now, you know what you want to do. Start by finding jobs that match the titles you have seen on your connections, or titles that describe your interests. I am currently looking for “Energy Engineer” and “engineer in training (EIT)” jobs — if all goes well, I will be starting as a product engineer in the automotive industry. From my connections, I found that these titles work in the fields I want to be a part of. Once you find a job that you have the minimum qualifications for, tailor your cover letter and resume with the keywords in the job description. Keywords are essentially the words that describe the role; if you’re going to be working on tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) or doing material analysis, you want your resume to have “tracking” or “analysis” at least once. Companies use software to parse through the hundreds of resumes they receive — this gives you a better chance of catching their attention and at getting that interview.


If you’re reading this section, perhaps you have secured an interview with your dream company. Now, obviously, you want to do well, but you might be unsure or nervous. Don’t worry, there’s a way to get through it. First, treat the interview like a quiz — study for it. If it’s a technical interview, you have the first hurdle of knowing your domain. A technical interview might be online, so you might choose to prepare for it using a test bank specific to your industry like LeetCode or revise industry-specific skills such as filing spreadsheets and other documents. Technical interviews can vary, and although it is difficult to say how to prepare for them all, it is possible to use industry resources to study for the scenarios that may come your way.

Onto the HR interview — this is where a company wants to assess whether you’re a human being or a robot. Have a good morning routine for this day. Skincare, shower, and dress well. Eye-contact is important during an interview as well. A lot of people will give you advice for this interview, but simply focus on being as authentic as possible whilst maintaining decorum. Don’t cuss, listen intently, make notes, and take time to answer. A well-thought-out reply is significantly better than a rehearsed answer. Easier said (or typed) than done, but these small pointers can help you score that dream job.

Lastly, when asked if you have any questions for your interviewer, ask one. There’s a few that you can pick, maybe about the pay scale or company ethos, but it shows genuine interest and is often considered a positive.

Author notes

I wish you all the best during this co-op season. Whether it is your first or last, may you find a job in these market conditions.