Adjusting to the Workplace Part 1: Advice from an Advisor

By Ria Kalinowski

There are many differences between attending school and starting work at a co-op or job. It can be a bit of a culture shock to make the transition. The schedule is different and expectations are new, so it will take time to make the adjustment. To prepare further, click here to listen to Wentworth Alumni talk about their experience and what advice they have for adjusting to the workplace.

  1. Communication

During your first week, check in with your supervisor about how they like to be communicated with. Maybe they like you to keep a running list of questions and go over them in a weekly meeting. Maybe they would prefer you to pop by their desk whenever something comes up. Maybe they use Slack or Skype for Business. If you have questions or need to call out sick, learn how to ask and when to do it.

Speaking of asking questions, don’t be afraid to do just that! If something comes up that you don’t know or need clarification on, do some research first, and then ask. A good practice is to show that you’ve done the research and are looking for information that can’t be found elsewhere.

Something critical to ask about is expectations. One major aspect of work that is different from school is that at work, you do not receive feedback in the same way. At school, grades are given frequently and without solicitation. You can compare your progress with how you did in past semesters and with how you are doing compared with others. At work, feedback can range from daily check-ins, to weekly meetings, or yearly evaluations. It may be vague or infrequent. When you first start interacting with your supervisor, work with them to set goals that are concrete and measurable, so you know what is expected.

If you aren’t receiving regular feedback from your supervisor, check in with them after the first few weeks to ask how they think you are doing. Ask for suggestions for improvements. It’s better to ask for redirection rather than continue down the wrong path.

2. Relationships

Another big difference between work and school are the people you interact with. In school, you are surrounded by your peers and often, you can pick the professors you learn from. At work, there may be several different generations you are asked to collaborate with and present to. You will have to manage relationships with people you may not get along with or agree with and sometimes, those people may be in a position of power. It’s important to behave as civilly and professionally as possible, as these are people you will see every day. You may also need references from them in the future!

One of the main relationships that you will engage in is the one with your supervisor. During your interactions with them, you may receive negative feedback or constructive criticism. It’s important to take this feedback professionally. Keep in mind that not all supervisors receive extensive management training. While this is a time to be developing your interpersonal skills, your supervisor may be working on their own skills as well. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses while gaining an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of your supervisor and what motivates them will help you navigate that relationship.

There may be people you adore spending time with at work, as well! It’s awesome to find people at work to be friends. Try not to complain about other work people to them as you never know what can get back to others.

This is a good time to start building a network of professionals to mentor you and help you learn about the industry and professionalism. Mentors can help you navigate company norms, understand hierarchy, and coach you to move up in your career.

3. Accountability

Much of your time at school is spent working independently. At work, often you are part of a team working towards a shared end goal. It’s important that you pull your weight, meet deadlines, and communicate with your teammates. Along with being accountable to a team, you are accountable for showing up every day. One of the biggest issues that leads to co-op termination is students not showing up or consistently showing up late.

Take notes in meetings (not on your phone as this can be misconstrued) and ask for more work when you finish a project. It might even be a good idea to have a list of smaller projects that are not time sensitive to dive into if you finish other work early.

While it’s important to work hard and not sit idle, it’s also important, in a full-time job, to take time off to recharge. Vacations aren’t scheduled for you like they are during school so make sure you take care of your mental health.

4. Success!

The key to being successful so that your job is secure, and might even lead to a promotion, is to make yourself indispensable. Be positive, professional, and proactive!

As always, to make an appointment with your Co-op + Career Advisor call the front desk at 617.989.4101 or stop by the CO-OPS + CAREERS Office.

Summer 2019 Drop-In Hours: Wednesday and Thursday 2:00pm – 4:00pm while classes are in session.

Co-op Stories: Vanessa Cardona

By: Vanessa Cardona

Vanessa Cardona is currently a Junior in the Biomedical Engineering program at Wentworth. She completed her first co-op with Sanofi Genzyme in Allston, MA as part of the Manufacturing Engineering Group. Vanessa recently sat down with CO-OPS + CAREERS to share her co-op story.

VanessaCardonaCo-op

Tell us about your co-op with Sanofi Genzyme:

For my first co-op, I had the privilege of working at Sanofi Genzyme in Allston, MA where I was part of the engineering group. As the co-op student, some of my responsibilities included: walking down piping and instrumentation diagrams (P&ID’s) to as built systems at the plant, developing and executing engineering studies, preparing commissioning and qualification documentation for the plant’s major annual maintenance shutdown, and supporting some of the engineers with implementations and/or improvements throughout the site.

What interested you in Sanofi and your role with the engineering group?

Prior to my co-op I had been interning at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute where I worked in a few different departments, the last of them being the Cell Manipulation Core Facility. While in this department, I was exposed to a cleanroom setting and a world of Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), standard operating procedures (SOP’s) and much more. This was a completely different side of the hospital that I had never seen before, but I loved every part of it.

My dad had been working at the Sanofi in Allston and for as long as I can remember, he would talk to me about the work being done there. As I began the co-op search process, I learned about a few co-op positions that were available for the spring at a few of the different Sanofi sites. From what I knew about Sanofi and from what I was reading in the job descriptions, I thought this would be a great place to start. One of the available positions was being the co-op student for the engineering group. As I read through the job description and the expectations for this role, I found myself checking the imaginary check boxes for all the experiences I was hoping to get out of my co-op. The role offered so many opportunities to grow and learn about working in the industry.

What was your search process like? And how did you prepare for your interviews?

Searching for a co-op was difficult and sometimes stressful. As the fall semester was coming to an end, assignments were piling up, finals were slowly creeping up, and I needed to find a placement for my spring co-op. During my gaps and after classes I would look at co-op postings on WITworks and check the job postings list on just about every company I could think about. After I landed an interview with Sanofi, I prepared for my interview by meeting with my Co-op Advisor to go through potential questions the employer could ask me and by ensuring my resume reflected my previous experiences, as well as my assets.

What was a typical day like at your co-op?

On a typical day I would arrive at Sanofi at 7AM, settle in and decide what were my top priorities for that day. At 8AM we would have our daily department meeting where we would talk about any safety concerns, the status of any projects, and anything else that came up. Because every month we would have a new meeting leader, I was able to take on the role for the month of April. It was intimidating at first but with the support of my supervisor and co-workers I was able to adjust quickly and pick up on a lot of the terminology.

After our morning meeting I would continue to work on my assigned projects which varied from day to day.  One of my main priorities became leading a couple engineering studies so I had to ensure everything was set to perform the engineering studies. This meant making sure the protocol was written and approved, and that we had the support and materials we needed to execute the studies. I also communicated with the third party who was supporting us with one of the engineering studies to make sure they were completing the tests we needed them to perform, as well as ensuring the proposal they sent contained accurate information.

While the engineering studies were taking place, I was also supporting with other tasks like walking down and updating piping and instrumentation drawings, which quickly became one of my favorite things to do. Depending on the system or the equipment, I would find myself in the clean room, completely gowned up (coveralls, booties, etc.) or in the utility space with my hard hat and safety shoes.

What lessons have you learned on your first co-op that will benefit your next co-op?

One huge lesson I learned while being on co-op was that it’s okay to not know everything and to give yourself time to adjust to the new environment. Being new to the industry, it takes time to become comfortable with the terminology, equipment, and systems. When I first started at Sanofi I definitely had moments where I felt like I didn’t fit in because of my lacking level of expertise in the field. As I attended more meetings and met with the different people in my group, I found myself using that terminology not just in the field but in the documents I was writing as well.

What advice do you have for students during their first co-op search?

I would say one piece of advice that has followed me throughout my life is to always ask questions. If this is your first time stepping into the field, there are going to be things you are unsure about. Also, learn as much as you can. Take advantage of new opportunities, shadow different people, try new things, and be proactive.
Being on co-op is the best time to get a preview of what it’s like to work in a professional setting.

In terms of the co-op search process I would say to start early and to take advantage of opportunities to interact with employers whether that be at the co-op fair or at any other event. It’s a great opportunity to learn more about companies, but also a chance to show employers what you can offer to their company.  I think another important tip for the co-op search is recognizing your network and identifying people who might be able to support you during the process. Whether that be by providing you with advice or connecting you to a potential employer.

If there is anything else you’d like to share about your co-op or your search process that was not covered by these questions please include that below.

My co-op experience was amazing. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity and for the supportive people I met along the way. Everyone was always so willing support me with projects I was working on and provide me with advice for the future.

Thank you for sharing your experience with us, Vanessa! Be on the lookout for our next co-op feature. If you would like to share your co-op experience (positive or not-as-expected), or have any questions about the co-op process, please email us at coopsandcareers@wit.edu.

As always, to make an appointment with your Co-op + Career Advisor call the front desk at 617.989.4101 or stop by the CO-OPS + CAREERS Office.

Summer 2019 Drop-In Hours: Wednesday and Thursday 2:00pm – 4:00pm while classes are in session.

How to secure your dream co-op

By: Austin Hoag

Austin Hoag is a Wentworth Junior studying Construction Management and serves as the CM Club Operations Manager. One of the many duties assigned to Austin as Operations Manager includes writing content for their website. Here is what he shared about his co-op search and areas where he was successful:

To secure your dream co-op, you will need…

  • A Polished Resume
    •  At this point, between being a student in the #1 Construction Management Program in the country among non-traditional students and having the credentials to be accepted into Wentworth, all students have the ability to create a competitive resume. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend sitting down with Janel Juba, Co-op + Career Advisor for Construction Management and Civil Engineering majors to create a resume employers will love. Besides, the hard part is done, now it is time to take advantage of and showcase your accomplishments!

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  • A Nice Padfolio
    • While this one might seem small, having something more organized than a pile of papers such as a Wentworth branded padfolio while meeting possible employers can go a very long way. Remember that these people will depend on you to be a positive representative of their company, and appearance is a large part of that.  *If you completed Co-op Institute, you will have received a padfolio at the end of the course. If your free Co-op Institute padfolio has gone missing, CO-OPS + CAREERS always has a few on-hand to borrow.
  • Attend CO-OP + CAREER Fair
    • The job fair that is offered twice a year (fall/spring) is, without a doubt, the BEST way to meet employers. The people you meet at the booth offer a unique look into the company and can help to give you an idea of the company culture.
  • A solid idea of what you want out of your co-op
    • One of the first questions almost every employer will ask you is: “what kind of position you would want if you were hired?”. If you know what that is, it can also help you narrow down your searches.

What to bring for your in-person interview…

  • Copies of your resume
    • Although they most likely will already have your resume, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is forgetting to bring it. Having it printed on resume paper shows that you are organized, forward thinking, and excited about the opportunity to interview.
  • Padfolio and or Notepad
    • Taking notes during an interview is vital, not only does it make you look more engaged, but taking notes will help you write a meaningful follow up email. *Write a few questions you want to ask and talking points to prep for your interview that will keep you on track.
  • The right attitude
    • An important part of the interview process is gauging each other’s personalities and making a first impression. Having a positive attitude and tone of voice when answering questions and confident body language can make all the difference.

On your first day and during field walks…

  • Office shoes and steel toe boots
    • In construction, you never know where the day might take you, especially your first day. Even though you may have an office job, employers very well may take you on a site for a variety of reasons. Have your gear ready because you will want to be prepared!
  • Plenty of water/food
    • Again, it’s construction, you never will know what the day will bring. On hot days, almost nothing is more dangerous than not having enough water. Food is often forgotten when it’s your first day, you never know what site you will be on, what the demands are and what will be open around you. Trust me, I have been unprepared in this area before.

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  • A notepad
    • Before my first day, this tip was suggested to me by other employees. One of the most unprofessional things you can do is walk into a meeting empty handed. I was meeting with the president of a subcontractor on my last co-op and I witnessed someone get kicked out of the meeting by their president because they were ill-prepared.
  • Anything that you think you might need
    • If you have a car and think it might come in handy, just bring it. It is always better to have something and not need it than to need it and not have it.

This blog was originally posted here, on the Wentworth CM Club website.

Thank you for sharing your experience and expertise with us, Austin! If you would like to share your co-op experience (positive or not-as-expected), or have any questions about the co-op process, please email us at coopsandcareers@wit.edu.

As always, to make an appointment with your Co-op + Career Advisor call the front desk at 617.989.4101 or stop by the CO-OPS + CAREERS Office.

Summer 2019 Drop-In Hours: Wednesday and Thursday 2:00pm – 4:00pm while classes are in session.

Is the key to success an effective to-do list?

By: Abbey Pober

Monday mornings at the office can sometimes be daunting. You know you have the week ahead to tackle the projects and responsibilities on your plate – but how will you get it all done? This has been a question I’ve tackled at the start of every work week since graduating from undergrad.  The answer, I have found, lies in my tried and true “to-do” lists filled with small, manageable tasks that roll up into the big picture of my goals for that day, week, month, or a specific project. On these lists you’ll find everything from “respond to email from ‘x'” and “develop fall event campaign strategy” to “fix spelling of ‘y’ on website”. The key to an effective “to-do” list is identifying what small actions must be taken to achieve your goals in accordance with your priorities.

 

Making A To-Do List:

To get started, try establishing a running list of all your tasks so you can see all pending work in one consolidated place. The format with which you track this list is a personal choice, and could be a simple handwritten list, a word document on your computer, or on an app/digital planner – whichever method you choose, pick one and stick with it (Cavoulacos)!

Once this list is created you can begin breaking it down into priorities for the week and then tasks you can realistically accomplish in a single day. If you aren’t sure what you can get done in a day, consider something like the 1-3-5 Rule to help you decide what to put on your daily to-do list. Under this rule ” assume that you can only accomplish one big thing, three medium things, and five small things (Cavoulacos).” Keep in mind, if you have meetings on a certain day or are in a role where unexpected tasks can be assigned to you regularly, your capacity to complete work will be reduced and your daily task list should reflect that. I add meetings to my daily to-do list to be sure I account for the time I’ll be away from my desk when prioritizing work for the day. It’s important that you recognize you have a finite number of hours in your day and the goals you set for yourself should reflect that.

Organization

Digital Tools to Help You

Recently I transitioned my handwritten system to an all-digital tracking method which had two benefits: I’ve reduced the amount of paper waste I create, and the digital format has helped me to prioritize and manage my responsibilities more effectively because I am able to keep my running list, weekly and daily task plans, and project goals all in one place. An unexpected bonus – I can share my digital planner with my boss who can see all the work on my plate and help me prioritize when needed. Below are some apps and tools I have used and recommend for getting started:

  • Microsoft Planner (free for Wentworth students and staff with your network access credentials)
  • Trello
  • Asana (free for individuals)
  • Microsoft ToDo
  • Excel/Google sheets
  • Phone task/reminder app

 So, why have a to-do list?

The benefits of creating a running task list and planning your work out by week and day are significant. First, because you’ll have a firm grasp on your tasks and priorities you are able to have informed discussions with your supervisor if they come to you with a new project. You can talk to them about where the new work fits in the context of your current plan and re-prioritize accordingly (Cavoulacos).  Beyond this practical application, setting small achievable goals can keep you motivated in your work and on track to achieving your big picture goals (Wood, 2018). Your to-do list is a physical manifestation of your goals and a roadmap for how you plan to achieve success.

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As always, to make an appointment with your Co-op + Career Advisor call the front desk at 617.989.4101 or stop by the CO-OPS + CAREERS Office.

Summer 2019 Drop-In Hours: Wednesday and Thursday 2:00pm – 4:00pm while classes are in session.

 

References:

Cavoulacos, A. (n.d.). Why You Never Finish Your To-Do Lists at Work (And How to Change That). The Muse. Retrieved from https://www.themuse.com/advice/why-you-never-finish-your-todo-lists-at-work-and-how-to-change-that

Wood, D. (2018, October 17). How Setting Small Daily Goals Makes You Achieve Big Success. Lifehack. Retrieved from https://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifestyle/how-the-act-of-daily-goal-setting-makes-you-successful.html