Sunday is here!!! I don’t know what that means for you, but for me, besides writing a new blog post, this Sunday means looking for jobs and applying for my first ever co-op! And now you are probably wondering what in the world is that.
It’s ok, I had no idea what it was either before coming to college. Only to find, when I got here, that everyone chooses Drexel for its co-op program, while I barely understood what it meant. Now that I know, this is just another amazing addition to the list of things that I love about my school. To sum it up, co-op is a method of combining classroom-based education with real world, practical work experience, while you’re still in college. It consists in a 6-month full-time work experience in which you gain know-how in your field of study, and the structure goes like this: taking classes for six months, and then for the next six months being on co-op, working, usually getting paid, and not having to pay any tuition. The co-op cycle can be either fall/winter or spring/summer, that’s why some students might be on classes when others are on co-op. I am in a 5-year and 3 co-ops program, which means I will finish college with a diploma and one year and a half of work experience.
Did I mention that I can choose my co-op to be anywhere in the world? And, in case I don’t see what I’m looking for in my school’s system (which is unlikely given the fact that they partner with some of the top employers in the area), I can always do self-directed search and contact employers personally.
I know, it sounds pretty cool.
What I like even more about it is the way this program makes you realize what “real life” is about. After barely two months at Drexel, I was already trained on how to communicate professionally, my LinkedIn page was up and running, and I was having all these job-related conversations with upperclassmen. Now, I’m ready to start my career, learn by doing, and get that hands-on experience prior to graduation.
However, it is more than that. Going to a co-op school is more than working on your resume, attending career fairs and talking to employers. It is the moments you see students suited up rushing to get on time to that really important interview. It is the conversation in the elevator when you ask your friend how co-op is going, and they ask you about your classes. It is asking your friend to take a picture of you for your LinkedIn profile, and then they asking you for advice on which one should they choose for theirs. It is the times you get to spend with your closest friends that become so much more meaningful, just because they are working outside the city so you see each other rarely. It is the flexibility, open-mindedness, and excitement that being able to choose a job anywhere in the world give you. It is when your friends are working in California, New York, Boston, Vietnam or Spain, but you know everyone is working for their future career and you will have so much to share when you will see each other again.
And then, it is all the skills you gain after your first six months. Communication, leadership, teamwork, finally knowing how to use Excel for more than adding some text in some cells, and understanding better what kind of work is the one that you want to pursue in your future. Because, to be honest, co-op is also the best time to learn what you don’t like doing, and I personally think that’s even more valuable.
Finding our career path, especially in this digital era, is a journey filled with fluctuations. The technology is changing so rapidly and companies need to adapt to so many developments and market trends that, especially if you are working in the marketing and data field as I aspire to, you need to keep up with such an ever-changing industry. That is, constantly challenging yourself to get out of your comfort zone, adapt to new changes, and learn new skills. Thanks to the co-op program, I can do that while I’m on school, graduating feeling much more prepared to take on the challenges businesses might face.
Co-op goes way beyond classroom theories and by-the-book teachings, as it exposes you to the real world and it teaches you how to navigate it.
I guess I’ll go back to my job search now. See you next Sunday with some exciting updates from my upcoming trip to New York, where I will attend the Marketing EDGE Student Career Forum! SO EXCITED.
P.S.: For more information about the co-op program, my school, or anything related to college, just leave a comment in the section below and I will answer to you as soon as possible. 🙂