Self-Initiated Co-op

Choose Your Own Co-op Path

We encourage students to obtain employment positions through their own contacts, previous work experience, or setting up their own business. These self-initiated co-ops function the same as regular co-ops in regards to work terms and fees.

If you have special requests for specific locations and/or companies, one of our Coordinators will work with you to provide you with assistance, tools and support.

The advantages of doing a self-initiated co-op include, but are not limited to:

  • Completing your first work term. Subsequent work terms often pay more, and are easier to secure once the first one is completed.
  • First step toward getting your Co-operative Education Designation on your degree
  • Personalized job search assistance

Please note: Students completing a self-initiated co-op are registered in a work term and as such, fees and work term requirements apply.

Locating a Self-Initiated Co-op

Contacting Your Current Networks

Contact business people, friends and/or family and ask them if they could utilize an enthusiastic, hardworking and talented co-op student like yourself. Discuss how you can provide value to their organization for a work project, for succession planning, or to assist with a busy time in their office.

Act on Referrals from Others

Ask your contacts if they know of any other businesses or employer contacts outside their organization who might also be interested/open to the opportunity of having a university co-op student help in various areas. Mention your major, specific skill sets, and areas of interest.

  1. Ask if they could provide you with the contact information for these individuals or businesses
  2. If they are reluctant, suggest they mention your name onto the potential new contact to ask if you can contact them directly.

Note: Be sure to follow-up with your original contact within one week as they may forget to re-contact you.

Contacting Sectors that Interest You

Research companies and/or employment sector associations and reach out directly to start conversations- introduce yourself, your purpose for calling, and ask who you would speak to in the organization to discuss the possibility of hiring a student for a special project, busy time, or for succession planning advantages in their business.

Preparation tip- Meet with a co-op coordinator to review your cover letter and resume and to discuss your job search strategy.

Doing Research

Finding employment opportunities is research you can complete online. Compile a list of target employers by performing the following tasks:

  • Learn about the structure of the sector you’re interested in
  • Find out who the players are (names of firms) – these are your targets
  • Visit your targets’ websites to learn about each company
  • Find out whom you should address a letter to – perhaps the HR person; get a full title
  • Start a spreadsheet to compile information about your targets
  • Send your applications to your targets via email, mail, or in person
  • Follow-up with the companies you’re most interested in by telephone
  • Save your research on your targets in anticipation of potential interviews
Marketing Yourself

Often, developing your own work term involves educating potential employers about:

  • The benefits of hiring you- an enthusiastic student with a background of experience, who is also studying and able to offer knowledge/skills in certain areas
  • What constitutes co-op employment
  • What the responsibilities of a co-op employer will be
Information To Provide To Employers

When you are discussing the Co-op program with an employer, let them know that the benefits of hiring a co-op student are that your company will gain a short-term team member with current academic training, enthusiasm, new ideas, background skills/experience, and a desire to perform well.

Benefits to Employers
  • Receive productive and enthusiastic students with fresh talent, skills and insight
  • Cost-effective means of fulfilling short term/special project needs and/or support in busy work times
  • A strategic recruitment opportunity to try out and recruit employees of the future; succession planning
  • An enhanced organizational profile on campus by connecting with students who are taking initiative before graduation. Information sessions and/or booths at our Lethbridge and Calgary Campuses are also an option for your recruitment benefit.
  • The co-op office will post your positions on our private student Co-op job board free of charge and can assist you in collecting applications and arranging interviews.
Work Term Criteria

The following criteria are needed for the position to be approved as a Co-operative Education work term:

  • Co-op work terms can be arranged for 4, 8, 12 or 16 months in length. Longer lengths are often most beneficial to the organization and the student.
  • Work term semesters are a minimum of 12 weeks in length and/or 420 hours, and usually follow the academic semesters (Jan – April; May – Aug; Sept – Dec).
  • Full-time paid employment- a minimum 35 hours per week
  • The work to be done is developmental in nature; it requires the student to put into practice knowledge imparted through university classroom study, and learn transferable skills.
  • Multiple work terms can be arranged by the employer, which are called extensions and recalls.
    • Such extensions and recalls must be reported to our co-op office staff by employers and students.
  • The student will be considered a part of the employment team, with the employment supervisor being involved to provide mentoring to students, plus being available to discuss the student’s work term learning goals, participating in a coordinator site visit, and completing a short online exit performance evaluation at the end of the student’s work term.
Approving A Co-op Position

In order to approve a position as a Co-op work term, please ask the employer if they are willing to participate in the following Co-op program requirements:

  1. Review the student’s work term goals at the start of the work term
  2. Participate in a site visit during the mid-point of each work term where the U of L's co-op coordinator meets with the student and the employer together at the work site
  3. Complete a short online performance evaluation of the student at the end of the final work term

Mention that the co-op coordinator will follow-up with them after your meeting to provide additional information and answer any questions they may have.

Take With You

1) A "U of L General Co-op Employer Brochure" outlining information about our Co-operative Education programs. You can also stop by the Career Bridge office to pick up a physical copy.

2) Your co-op coordinator’s business card. Pick this up at the Career Bridge office

Obtaining Co-op Office Approval

In order to have your self-initated co-op formally approved, please provide a job description along with the employer's contact information to the co-op office/coordinator. The co-op office will contact you to confirm that the position has been approved as a co-op and you will be contacted about attending a send-off meeting before you begin your work term.

You can offer to forward the job description to the co-op office, or the employer can provide it after they have spoken to the co-op office/coordinator upon follow-up.