Waterloo undergraduate student Rupi Saini is having a busy month: co-op interviews, assignments, and opening for M. NourbeSe Philip as part of the St. Jerome’s Reading Series. Thanks to Rupi for finding time to do this as well.–JLH
JLH: People always have questions about how co-op works: can you tell me what term you are in and how many co-op placements you’ve had? Have they been different, or do you find you are developing a niche?
RS: I am currently in my 3b term. I finished my third placement in the summer and have two more terms coming up in January. They’ve been really different from one another. One thing that’s great about co-op is you get to discover what you don’t like really early, so that’s a plus. My first placement was with a small business and had a very social environment, which was nice, whereas my second was really isolated. From that I knew I didn’t want to work within a big corporation right now. So for my third placement I decided I wanted to go back to working within a small business environment.
JLH: Did you feel prepared for your first round of interviews? Has your approach to interviews changed?
RS: This is the fourth time round that I’m doing this interview process, and by this point it just feels natural. I know what to expect, so I don’t get nervous like I used to in my first or second year. My approach to interviews has developed since first year. In my first year I learned how to answer really basic questions (i.e. tell us about a time when you had a conflict with a co-worker and how you solved it), but now I’ve learned to connect my answers to the job description, and take into account what the company is looking for. What I really like doing is having a conversation with the employer, not just an interview. I find that the interviews that turn into discussions have given me the best results.
JLH: Do you find your co-op terms change how you approach the classroom?
RS: My co-op terms have exposed me to a larger world outside the comfort of a classroom. Because of this, I’ve grown tenfold as a person, and that naturally effects how I approach the classroom. In the same way that I would want to be professional in an office environment, I want to be just as respectful in a classroom. I bring my learnt skills with me into class discussions or group projects. I find that I’m a stronger leader, take more initiative, and am better at resolving conflict because of my job experience.
JLH: What kind of reception have you had in the workplace? Do you find co-workers always want to talk books with you?
RS: I’ve never experienced that. Luckily, my coworkers treat me like I’m one of the full-timers. They talk to me about their kids, what they had for dinner, and their plans for the weekend. This is nice because I get the full experience.
JLH: Finally, what advice do you have for those going into their first round of interviews, or co-op term?
RS: If your resume doesn’t stand out amongst others, you need to change it. When I changed my resume so that it didn’t look so conventional, employers began opening up the interview with, “I love your resume, I just had to know more about you”. Write cover letters. And even if you don’t get interviews early on, do not feel discouraged. You will get an interview, and when you go in, be confident and be prepared. Understand what the company wants, what their culture is, and figure out how your past experiences make you a perfect fit for that job. Be on time and be respectful.