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Tips for success during your co-op/internship

Congratulations! You’ve worked hard in your classes, you’ve researched potential companies that you’d like to work for, you perfected your resume and submitted applications, you nailed the interview, and now you’ve landed a strong co-op or internship opportunity. 

The stress of FINDING the job is over, but the work (and fun!) has just begun.  You will be working for this company full time for at least 4 months.

This experience will be what you make it, and it’s important that you get the most out of your time there.  Below are helpful tips for a successful co-op or internship experience.

1.       Meet your coworkers and network: You will hopefully develop a strong relationship with your supervisor, but it’s important to talk to as many people as you can within the company.  NETWORK! Introduce yourself to everyone you meet and consider seeking out a mentor who may or may not be your supervisor.

2.       Set goals:  Within the first week of starting the position, sit down with your supervisor to find out what their expectations are for your experience.  Talk about what you hope to gain from the internship, and then follow up to make sure you are meeting those goals and set new goals if necessary.   Make sure to request feedback from your supervisor throughout the experience to make sure you are on the right track.

3.       Observe and take notes:  Every company has their own unique culture, policies, and procedures.  Understanding these as soon as possible will help ensure you don’t overstep any boundaries or say the wrong thing.  Also consider: is this the type of company and culture I would enjoy for a full-time career? Remember, this experience is a great way to determine what type of job and company you would like to pursue AFTER graduation.

4.       Be professional: Always be on time, wear appropriate attire, and watch email etiquette! And don’t forget the standards for common courtesy: say thank you, follow up, and follow through.  Be someone who people trust to get the job done.

5.       Be flexible: Remember, this is a learning experience.  There may be times that you are given “grunt” work as an intern, but take it in stride: this is the trade-off for the skills you are learning.  If you feel there is an uneven balance, talk to your supervisor about your concerns and discuss how you may be able to better apply your skills and add value to the organization.

6.       Be responsible: Companies utilize internship and co-op experiences as a “test drive” for potential new hire, and approximately  50% of OSU Engineering students who intern/co-op accept positions with their co-op or intern employer upon graduation.  Produce work that you are proud of.  Show off your skills! Always have a good attitude; people are watching!

7.       Reflect on your experience: Make sure to sit down with your supervisor at the end of the term to discuss your performance and get feedback.  Reflect on the skills you’ve gained and update your resume to showcase experiences and accomplishments. 

8.       Stay in touch: Hopefully you have developed positive professional and perhaps personal relationships while in the field.  These people can provide career advice, references, and possibly even a job opportunity in the future, so maintaining those relationships is important.

Co-ops and Internships are a wonderful way to gain meaningful experience and also help you to decide the direction of your future career.  A successful work term during college can have big payoffs when it comes to finding and excelling in a full-time job.

Good luck and soak it all in!

"Things work out best for those who make the best of how things work out.”
-John Wooden

About the author

Katy Arenschield

Katy Arenschield is the Engineering Co-op and Internship Program Manager.