By Faraz Haq
As students, we all know the value of obtaining career-related experiences throughout our undergraduate educations in order to better prepare us for our careers after graduation and help boost our professional profiles to recruiters. Students typically look for such experiences during the summer months. Summer internships generally require students to work full-time schedules (40 hour weeks) through the summer months of May – August. Internships are extremely beneficial; however they are not the only way you can go about gaining experience!
If you are seeking career related opportunities throughout the Fall and Winter semesters to complement your education (and have an income while you are in school), searching for co-op opportunities is definitely a great option. A co-op role is similar to that of an internship in the fact that you are gaining valuable career related experience from an employer. You will be given the same type of assignments/projects that an intern would be given. The differences lie mainly in the time commitment required in your work schedule. Employers understand that our education comes first and foremost in terms of priorities. Therefore, students employed in co-op positions typically work around 20 to 25 hours per week on average. This gives them the flexibility to maintain a full time school schedule while working. Students in co-op employment situations also maintain employment for longer periods of time as compared to internships which typically end after 2-3 months.
Recruiters place a lot of value on co-op employment experiences when reviewing resumes of candidates. A student who has maintained a strong GPA while maintaining co-op employment has successfully demonstrated time management skills, the ability to multitask, and the ability to prioritize. In a career related experience, it is expected that the work you perform has a correlation with classes you are enrolled in. Working in a co-op role can help you identify this correlation quickly since you are enrolled in related classes at the same time.
There are many employers in the surrounding community who offer co-op employment for students. A great place to look is Oakland University’s internal job posting website, Oakland University Career Link (www.oucareerlink.com). You can apply advanced filters to seek out co-op positions. Make sure to check regularly as employers are constantly posting new opportunities every day. If you need any help with the job search, preparing documents (cover letter, resume), and interviewing tips, you can always stop by Career Services in 154 North Foundation Hall. Best of luck!