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3Qs: The path to landing a co-op at a startup

The Curry Ballroom will be a nerve center of activity Thursday evening from 6 to 8 p.m. as the Northeastern University Center for Entrepreneurship Education hosts its inaugural co-op networking expo. The event will feature 25 employers, each with open co-op positions at startups and innovative firms in Boston and New York. We asked one of the event’s organizers, D’Amore-McKim School of Business cooperative education faculty coordinator Esther Chewning, to preview the expo and talk about the growing role start-ups play in Northeastern’s co-op environment.

How did this event come about?

I primarily work with entrepreneurship students in the D’Amore-McKim School of Business, but increasingly across the university, students are seeking access to co-ops at startups and firms doing innovative work. We thought it would be a great opportunity to bring together employers from varying industries that have a lot in common in terms of tackling big, new ideas with small and nimble teams.

What is it about co-op opportunities at startups that interests and engages Northeastern students?

Exemplified by Richard D’Amore and Alan McKim’s generous donation, there is a growing entrepreneurial mindset across the university. Our students want firsthand experience in an entrepreneurial environment, and they also want to be part of a dynamic team that’s building something from the ground up.

Students at startups have to be ready to take on additional responsibilities—that’s exactly why they’re interested in this kind of co-op opportunity. They may be hired into a marketing position and, before they know it, they could be doing web design, sales, and vendor relations. Most entrepreneurs identify the skills and talents that Northeastern students possess and hone in on these. Students may not know exactly what the day will bring, but knowing that each day will be different and they will have the opportunity to make a real impact attracts them to a startup.

Many of these startups are hiring their first co-op employee. What about Northeastern’s experiential education appeals to employers?

An entrepreneur understands that if they hire one of our students, they’ll have someone there for six months, full-time, committed to delivering results that they would not get from a summer intern or a part-time student employee. Some of these ventures are able to have the salary of a co-op employee subsidized, thanks to a program funded through the Center for Entrepreneurship Education that aims to make six month co-ops at startups, where cash is often very tight, more accessible.