Student Voices is a WOA blog feature that presents the experiences and point of views of current Arts students around campus. Get to know our creative and passionate students through their “voices” and get a snapshot of life as an Arts undergrad. The views and opinions expressed within these student voices posts are solely those of the author.
I recently spoke at a CAPS Career Information session about a career in planning. I was later asked by several students, both current and prospective, about the benefits of enrolling in the Arts Work Experience (AWE) program, and the value in prolonging my studies to become a co-op student and work for a term.
Prior to entering the program, I had to weigh the benefits with professors and AWE coordinators. However, I’m now six and a half months into my co-op experience, and I can confidently say that this has been one of the most positive and rewarding experiences of my post-secondary education. Some of the benefits are:
Experiencing your profession firsthand
A work experience is particularly useful in diverse fields that may have several different responsibilities that fall under the same job title. While things may interest you in school or personally, there may also be areas of interest you were previously unaware of. Co-op positions are useful in helping you decide where your interests lie, as you are often pulled into multiple projects as a student intern. In certain instances these experiences may also allow you to decide which route you want to take in the future, such as deciding to work for public or private firms.
Gaining relevant experience
Very little replaces real-world job experience. However, obtaining this experience can be difficult, particularly when job postings ask for candidates with two years (or more) of job-related experience. While co-op positions are competitive, they’re specifically reserved for students, therefore increasing your chances of landing a job. These positions will be invaluable when applying and interviewing for future jobs.
Additionally, the experiences you take away from your co-op position will, without a doubt, provide you with benefits even before you graduate. After being immersed in a wide array of topics and issues in the field of planning, I feel much more adept at tackling projects with my newfound skills and understanding.
Setting yourself apart
During your post-secondary education, chances are that you and your classmates will have more or less completed similar projects. A co-op can set you apart in several ways, such as:
- providing you with meaningful, real-life projects
- giving you practice writing resumes, cover letters and interviewing. This experience can also teach you how to study for interviews and what to look for when researching organizations.
- provide you with extended networking opportunities (as discussed in my previous Student Voices post). Many students who participate in co-op positions are hired by the same firm following their graduation —which is what all students work towards, isn’t it?
A little cash never hurt anyone
While this shouldn’t be the sole reason you apply for a co-op position, earning extra money that can be put towards your tuition, future schooling, or used as spending cash is always a bonus. Who said that you have to be a starving student?
After being in school for 12 or more years, the thought of putting off your studies even by a day may sound unappealing to most. However, having experienced firsthand the benefits of enrolling in the AWE program, it’s hard to see why anyone wouldn’t choose to take a co-op when given the opportunity.