Not Just Money; Co-op Means Opportunities

by Laura Merrill, Manager of Cooperative Education

For Bill Ready (’01) and Danese Seaman (’99), participating in a co-op program meant more than just money—it meant significant opportunities upon graduation.

Their experience is typical, and one of the main benefits of having a co-op assignment.

Bill, a CIS major who graduated with a 3.9 GPA, speaks highly of his co-op experience. “Co-op is among the most valuable experiences of my undergraduate career. The Ulmer Career Management Center’s co-op program had a very significant impact on me, both personally and professionally,” he said.

Bill’s first co-op was with IPay, LLC (formerly Netzee, Inc.), an Internet banking service provider, where he worked as a systems analyst at a salary of $30,000 per year. His second co-op was with Humana, which hired him full-time upon graduation. After working for Humana for three years as project manager of software development, he was accepted into Harvard University’s MBA program. Pending completion of his graduate degree in May 2006, McKinsey & Company, a management and strategy consulting firm, has offered him a position paying $150,000 to $175,000 per year.

But it’s more than just the money. According to Bill, “Co-op gives you added perspective by allowing you to apply knowledge learned in the classroom in a work environment. The lessons are much more relevant; you can use your work experience as a view into how the concepts you are learning are actually applied.”

Further, “A co-op can be a significant step in overcoming the experience hurdle that you will be faced with upon graduation, and is a great opportunity to distinguish yourself from other graduates who do not have relevant work experience.”

Danese, also a CIS graduate, has been equally successful. After completing her co-op at General Electric (GE), she joined GE as part of a six-month program for which 40 applied and only two were selected. Now, after six years of steadily advancing at GE, Danese was appointed to a team leader position in the marketing digitization area, supervising more than 40 employees. Her team supports all of GE Consumer Industrial’s public websites.

Of her co-op experience, Danese says, “Co-op gives you a license—with no experience—to work in a true hands-on environment.” She adds, “The Ulmer Center helped me write an effective resume that landed my co-op with GE, and I was able to find a co-op with a good pay scale. This was important, as I needed a stable income to continue my education. My co-op with GE was the first proving ground for my education. I believe your co-op selection sets the stage for the rest of your career.”

Begin thinking about your career—and a co-op experience—by your junior year. Don’t put it off until the last minute. It could be the jump-start your career needs.

Steps for participating in a co-op:

  1. Visit the Ulmer Center and meet with our Career Planning Consultant, Eileen Davis.
  2. Obtain a list of instructions from the Ulmer Center on what you do to register and complete a co-op.
  3. Research industries/companies with which you’d like to work.
  4. Attend information sessions and career fairs.
  5. Login to Symplicity and peruse the job openings.
  6. Network and talk to faculty about potential opportunities.

Advantages of co-op

  1. Earn money to pay for school and books.
  2. Get real work experience to help jump-start your career.
  3. Tap into networking opportunities.
  4. Apply what you learn in your co-op to your course work,
  5. “Try before you buy” so you can be sure about your career choice.
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