Eight Reasons to Consider Work Experience or Co-op in 2018

Postings for 2018 student jobs are rolling out and depending on your program, it may be an exciting time to start (or continue) gaining experience. This is my first of two posts to help you gain some perspective on the world of work experience and co-op. While today’s post is about the positives, the second post will be about things you should watch out for!

Whether you are thinking about your 2018 summer job or considering a longer position away from school, there are plenty of aspects to consider when deciding on the next gig. As I’m well into my fourth work experience term, here are some pro’s to consider for your next job experience adventure. Hopefully these will help you on the road to determining why or if student work experience is worth it to you, or at least encourage you to pump some more time into that next cover letter to make it that much extra.

Experience the day-to-day of your job

So you’ve chosen to go to school for this career that you’re interested in doing, but have you actually experienced a day-in-the-life? a few months-in-the-life? maybe more? Going through the motions of your work before you graduate from your program can be great for giving that sneak peak of what’s to come. It may help you find streams of the career that you want to stay away from, or ever better, ones that you gravitate toward.

Go get that money

Let’s be real, unless your school is already magically paid for, financial life for students can be tight. Whether you are just making some money in the summer or taking a term off for a co-op position, earning some extra money to live a little or just catch up can take a lot of pressure off for a bit before you crush it when you come back to school.

Get your foot in the door

The work world can be competitive! BCIT has this great reputation for getting people jobs and I’ve experienced it first hand. But maybe there’s a company you really want to work for, a geographic location you really want to end up after graduation, or a career path you like.  Getting into a less competitive co-op or a job experience term up front before you graduate can make you more competitive overall for that job you really want in the future. Start thinking about the end game.

Work culture

The work culture can change from industry to industry and from company to company. By spending some time in the field, you learn a lot about what type of work culture you like and what is going to fit you the best in the future. In civil engineering there is a big difference between the work culture in public positions compared to private consultants. It’s nice to try both to see where you perform the best.

Meet people in your industry

It’s a small world and you’re likely going to run into the same people throughout your whole career. Work experience is a great way to start building your network of colleagues, potential clients, employers, and vendors of your industry. Knowing some of these people early on is a big advantage in getting a job and eventually being good at it.

Build up that resume

When human resources people are flipping through hundreds of resumes and cover letters, previous experience can be very eye catching. For them it means less time to train you to do the job properly and more time you can contribute from the get go.

Breathing room to reflect

All that intense learning from a fire house (BCIT’s crash course style) can really get your mind fixated on surviving academically day by day. Taking a pause between that mental storm can help you maintain or adjust and reflect on where you are going and why.

Relate back to the books when you return

In civil they encourage us to take a year off between years 2 and 3. Part of the reason is to learn how the theory is applied, gain some practical skills, and come back with a more developed perspective. Having the extra context makes the learning process that much better because exposure to the real world really helps solidify what the theory is trying to model and why we learn the things that we do.

Hopefully that gives you some ideas of how work experience can benefit you on the way to completing your program! My next post will also be about work experience, but more for what to watch out for.

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