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My First Co-op Job Application Process!

March 23, 2016
Hey Guys!

It's been a pretty long time since I first came to Waterloo in 2014! After 2 years of just studying, I finally had the chance to gain real life experience in my field through using the Co-op opportunities that the University of Waterloo has. It's been a pretty wild ride, with many rejections and interviews, but I can finally say that I will be doing Legal Research at the University of Waterloo itself for my Summer Co-op term.

But first, lets start with how I got there. If there's one thing for sure, the Co-op process at Waterloo is not for the faint-hearted! There's a lot of competition and landing your first Co-op job is certainly quite tough. I'll be explaining to you guys the process, as well as talk about my experience with it.

The application process was certainly a brand new experience for me and really showed me how competitive the real world job market is. Before this, I held a variety of fast-food jobs, as well as some sales and tutoring jobs, but the interviews for my Co-op jobs were significantly different and harder. Thus, I'm going to share my story of the application process with you guys, along with a few tips and tricks to get that sweet first Co-op placement!

The Application Process:

You mostly apply for Co-op jobs through Waterloo's job bank, Jobmine. You can also look outside Jobmine if you wish, but most people stick to using this bank. You start applying for jobs in the term before your work term (so if you have a work term in Summer, you will start applying during the Winter term). The job postings are separated into 2 main rounds - the first (AKA main) round and the continuous round. In the main round (which begins around the end of the first month) there are often up to around 3000-4000 job postings. You can apply to a maximum of 50 jobs, and you only have around 3 days or so to apply, so make sure you mark those dates on your calendar! Afterwards, employers start screening and interviewing you and depending on your performance, they will hand out offers or ranks. A rank means that they liked you, but you were not their top choice. In the last week of the second month, there is a "match weekend" in which you get to see your ranks and offers, and pick which jobs you want by also ranking the jobs from 1-9. The algorithm is designed such that it takes your rank, the employers rank (an offer is considered rank 1), and then adds them; the person with the lowest combined number is then matched with the job! Thus, if you got an offer and rank it 1, you automatically get the job. 

The continuous round is much faster and significantly different. This round usually begins in the beginning of the third month, a few days after the first round matches end. Those who did not find a job in the first round compete to find placements in this round. Job postings now come out daily, and last for 2 days. In addition, you are now allowed to apply to a maximum of 99 jobs. Interviews happen quickly and oftentimes the employer finishes their rankings within a day or 2 of the interviews. Make sure you check Jobmine daily during this round, because things move along really quickly! The jobs in the continuous round are not as good (but still excellent jobs nonetheless!) than the first round, and there is less competition in this round. The continuous round goes on until you find a job, or until the deadline to find a Co-op placement has passed. This deadline is generally around 1 month into the actual work term. 

My Experience:

Even before applying on Jobmine, I began to brush up on my resume. I asked my department advisers as well as a few upper years to take a look at my resume and make suggestions. The University does suggest a template resume to follow, but most people try to not copy it exactly, as it is generally quite dull and uninteresting. After numerous days of editing, I was ready for the first round of Jobmine applications!

When I saw the first round of postings, I was amazed at the amount of jobs there were that were relevant to my studies. I applied to over 40 jobs, mostly in the field of law and policy analysis and mostly government jobs. The resume I used was the same throughout, but I did make a personalized cover letter for each job through having a bank of premade paragraphs and putting relevant ones in. I also made special cover letters for jobs that I really wanted. Most of the jobs I applied to were either intermediate or senior level, as I wanted to get the best jobs. After the first round, I was confident that I'll get a great Co-op placement. However, my applications did not fare that well. I received 3 interviews, but I felt that I was under-qualified for each position. My first interview was an absolute nightmare. It was my first ever Co-op interview and I was really nervous. I stumbled on a lot of my answers and I felt that i did a poor job. I was not ranked for that job. My second interview fared slightly better, but I felt that i was not qualified enough for the job. However, I was still ranked as I felt that they liked my personality. My third interview also went okay, but the employer chose to cancel the job. Thus, I was disappointed to see on match day that i did not get matched for any job, and thus would have to continue hunting in the continuous round.

At the start of the continuous round, I applied to as many jobs as I could, because I did not want to repeat the mistake I made in the first round. I started applying for more beginner level jobs, knowing that I will eventually gain enough experience to apply to the better jobs in my future Co-op terms. The jobs in the continuous round are still great, but certainly were not as good as the jobs in the main round. After around 60 more applications, I was surprised to see that I had received 4 more interviews, all in the span of one day! This time, I was prepared for the interview process. My first interview during the continuous round went quite well, but the job was offered to someone else. However, I did not let this deter me and began to prepare for my next 3 interviews, which were all on March 10th! The next day, I was excited to see that I was ranked for one position and given an offer for another. I am excited to say that I'll be working as a Legal Research Assistant for the Secretariat and Office of General Counsel at the University of Waterloo this Summer!

In Conclusion:

For those of you who will be going through the Co-op process, just remember that it will be a tough ride but it will also be highly rewarding. The Co-op program at Waterloo has allowed me to find opportunities I would not have otherwise, and is an excellent program overall. Make sure you apply for the right jobs depending on your experience, and above all, never give up! I know from experience that rejection can be sometimes depressing, but just keep trekking on and eventually you'll be rewarded for your effort!

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