Where would you go if you could do a co-op term anywhere?
Would you apply to co-op jobs in your city or would you move across the country to give a new location a try?
Making the move from studying to a work term can be a difficult adjustment, which may be why many students don’t stray far from their comfort zone when looking for their next job.
But I’m here to tell you why you should consider taking advantage of the unique opportunity you have as students have to explore a new location without having to commit to it long term, and how working outside your comfort zone can pay off in big ways, both in your professional and personal life.
Regardless of the industry you’re in, there are numerous professional benefits to working in different locations, including the work experience itself. The location of work inherently presents a new breed of challenges and opportunities to learn things you may not have experienced otherwise.
Look at Fort McMurray, Alberta, for example, where I’m currently working. This city is home to some of the world’s largest oil and gas companies who offer up some amazing co-op and new grad opportunities for those willing to branch out of their comfort zone.
Gain better experience
My colleagues here joke that working at an active mine is like dog years in experience and it has proven to be true. You get world-class experience working in the field as well as the chance to see what it’s like to live in a remote, northern community without having to make any major life changes.
Also, the pace of work here means that, if you take every opportunity presented to learn and develop your skill set, and demonstrate that you can produce quality work in a timely fashion, you have the potential to be brought in on more complex work and gain valuable experience you can take with you.
One of the other advantages to working in out-of-the-way locales is that many companies in remote locations offer great wages, relocation allowances and fantastic living accommodations for students.
Grow your network
Not only do you get paid well today, but you also invest in your future by broadening your network and making connections with experienced professionals. You never know where your career will take you.
Plus, the wider your network is, the better your chances are of knowing someone you can contact for advice or a recommendation. It doesn’t hurt to increase the number of people in your corner when the time comes to start looking for permanent positions.
Learn how to be flexible
There are also great personal benefits to working outside of your comfort zone. When you are able to branch out and explore different opportunities early in your career you’ll be more likely to continue to take risks throughout your working life.
One of the most important attributes a young professional can have in the workplace is flexibility. When you’re on a short-term placement you have to learn quickly and show you can work in an environment that is new on every level. Being able to fluidly take on challenges and produce quality work demonstrates your learning agility and increases your ability to adapt to new environments quickly.
For young professionals it’s also important to develop independence and an ability to go beyond the comforts of home, including the comforts of your social network. Doing a co-op term in a new environment means you’re forced to socialize with new people and make connections quickly, developing your interpersonal skills and your ability to interact with a variety of different people.
Grin and bear it
Having said that, broadening your horizons isn’t all fun and excitement; be prepared to be lonely and feel out of place for at least a couple weeks. The key to making it through this is to simply commit. Commit to being there and getting the absolute most out of every day and every experience.
If you have to, remind yourself that it’s short-term and try not to focus on what you don’t like. After all, if Britney Spears can make it through 2007, you can make it through four months in a different city.
What to keep in mind
If you are thinking about looking outside your comfort zone, there are a few things you should keep in mind:
- Be proactive. Generally, companies will begin the recruitment process months in advance of your planned start date. For example, for a start date in May, you would be applying to a position in January and likely interviewing in late January or February.
- Ensure you have a top-notch application. Take the application process seriously, and ensure your cover letter, resume and online application profile are done well and will attract the attention of the recruiter.
- Be enthusiastic. As much as the recruiter will be selling the opportunity to you, make sure you show your enthusiasm about the position. These opportunities are often in demand and there will be some stiff competition.
And remember, don’t take it personally when someone jokes that you’re going to work in Siberia. It’s not nearly as warm here…
Would you ever relocate to somewhere like Fort McMurray to get experience? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Photo credit: Manhole.ca