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Four simple tips for co-op success

10/0115 - BOSTON, MA. - Students meet with companies at the Career Fair in Cabot Cage on Oct. 01, 2015. Photo by Adam Glanzman/Northeastern University

Many Northeastern students have just begun their first co-ops. To help them succeed, we asked a handful of students with co-op experience to offer up some tried and true tips for excelling in the workplace.

Develop a strong working relationship with your manager

Sohan Shah, SSH’17, and Erin Hensley, DMSB’18, recommend that first-time co-op students check in with their managers on a regular basis.

“Stay in close communication with your supervisor with regard to your workload and ask for feedback on your performance,” says Shah, a fourth-year economics major who recently completed his second co-op as an analyst for the market research firm Market Metrics.

Hensley, a third-year marketing major who just finished her first co-op as a web consultant for the nonprofit Global Ties U.S., suggests that first-timers make their supervisors aware of their skillsets. “Approach your superiors if you have any [untapped] talents that you would like to lend,” she says.

Make a good first impression with your colleagues

Diego Salas, DMSB’17, and Michael Bogoian-Mullen, E’17, advise first-time co-op students to find out what makes their colleagues tick both in and out of the office.

“In your first few weeks on the job, you should target commonalities between you and your coworkers and initiate a relationship that goes beyond work,” says Salas, a fourth-year finance major who did his second co-op as a debt capital markets analyst at Scotiabank. “You could check out their LinkedIn profiles in order to improve the chances of touching on a topic that you are both passionate about.”

Bogoian-Mullen, a fifth-year industrial engineering major who did his third and final co-op as a banking and capital markets tech advisor at Ernst & Young, says that first-time co-op students should make it a priority to learn the workplace habits of their new coworkers. “Learn who’s good at what, who responds quickly to email, who despises instant messaging, and who will hold a grudge if you miss the hallway hello,” he says. “The more you know about your team, the quicker you will be able to solve your issues and, in time, the issues of others, making you invaluable.”

Ask lots of questions, ‘but only ask a particular question once’

Hensley, Bogoian-Mullen, and Dodi Feldman, SSH’17, MS’18, urge first-time co-op students to strive for greatness by asking intelligent questions, having a positive attitude, and adapting to feedback.

“Even if you can’t see yourself working at your co-op company in the future, it is extremely important to make a great first impression,” says Feldman, a criminal justice student who recently worked as an intern for the Drug Enforcement Agency. “Employers communicate with one another in their industry and can serve as great assets in the future.”

Bogoian-Mullen recommends first-time co-op students keep a log of the questions they ask and the answers they receive. “Ask a million different questions but only ask a particular question once,” he says.

Hensley, for her part, advises students to be responsive to feedback. As she puts it, “Employers understand that co-op students are not perfect, but showing that you are adaptable and perceptive to feedback shows your commitment to improving your work performance.”

Prove yourself—and then reach for the sky

Salas and Bogoian-Mullen suggest that first-time co-op students show patience in their first few weeks on the job, taking time to demonstrate their competence before asking for more responsibilities.

“Hold your process improvements and brilliant ideas until you’ve proven your work ethic,” says Bogoian-Mullen. “No one appreciates the new kid who says the current way of doing things is no good.”

Says Salas: “Employers will likely test you the first week to see what your skills are and then use this assessment as a baseline for giving you responsibilities. Don’t be discouraged if you’re given routine work during your first week—the best is yet to come.”

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