I graduated from the University of Lethbridge with a BSc in computer science. The IT job market is a dog-eat-dog world and I always knew that a simple BSc degree would not be enough to get my foot in the door, which is why I decided to enhance my degree with co-op experience.
A university education teaches you theory, whereas a co-op lets you apply those theories to the real world. I contacted the U of L career centre, researched potential employers and applied to the positions that appealed to me.
I completed a 12-month co-op work term with the Government of Alberta as a project assistant for the Ministry of Employment and Immigration.
Throughout my work term, I was pleasantly surprised with the challenging work and the level of responsibility I was given. My colleagues valued the work I did and my supervisor always encouraged me to take advantage of any learning opportunities.
This co-op experience added significant value to my university studies and gave me a head start in my career. A co-op work-term often serves as a “test drive” for both employers and students to evaluate if they’re suitable for employment upon graduation.
My advice to fellow students and recent graduates is to look for a position that offers you an opportunity for learning and advancement. Research the employer you want to work for so you are able to articulate what you can bring to the table and what you hope to achieve from the experience.
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My advice to schools and career centres is to increase awareness of co-op. Employers should provide co-op students with more responsibilities that are relevant to their field of study. In order to do that, employers should plan the experience in advance so that, whenever possible, levels of difficulty and responsibility increase as the student develops new skills. With a little bit of responsibility, a confident and enthusiastic student can make a difference.
Where I am now
During my last semester, I received a job offer from a major energy company as an IT analyst.
But that was not my dream job. Ever since my co-op work term with the Government of Alberta, I’ve wanted to work in the public sector. So when the Ministry of Employment and Immigration office offered me a position as a business analyst a year later, I seized the opportunity. I provide consulting and project leadership services in order to meet business needs.