What's in it for you?
Today's new workforce faces challenges requiring practical skills and a variety of experiences to adapt to changing labour market needs. By participating in Work-Integrated Learning opportunities, you'll be exposed to different experiences and workplaces. Through these placements, you'll build your portfolio of skills and connections to successfully prepare you to tackle real-world problems and become competitive in your job search.
Mentorship is emerging as one of the most critical elements in advancing quality WIL opportunities in Canada. There are many benefits for the mentee, the mentor, and for organizations that encourage mentorship. But employers from across Canada say there is insufficient support when it comes to training their staff to have the skills necessary to coach and mentor young staff.
Our immersive mentorship training course is targeted at providing supervisors and staff - across sectors - with the skills needed to foster a positive WIL environment.
Certain types of WIL are sometimes called “micro-WIL.” This generally refers to forms of work-integrated learning, such as applied research projects and field studies programs, that are less than a full academic semester (e.g. are shorter than about four months.) These short bursts of work-integrated learning still expose students to the realities and pressures of the workforce, but are less immersive than full time WIL, such as an internship, co-op or apprenticeship.
One big difference between co-op and work experience is the relationship between the employer and the school. Co-op programs are usually structured more formally, and allow for more feedback between a business and a university or college. This can allow for a longer term relationship, in which employers’ feedback about student performance can be incorporated into the curriculum. Co-op programs, including accredited programs, also provide a roadmap for employers on how to build WIL into their organizations, have structured feedback and assessment, and clear guidelines for hiring.
The reality is, however, that not all post-secondary schools have co-op or internship programs. Work Experience is a form of WIL that fills these gaps. In this case, employers trade the benefit of more flexibility (timelines; student assessment; start and end dates) with the challenge of not having as much support or a roadmap for how to implement WIL in their organization.
With some schools calling their programs “co-ops” and others calling their programs “internships”, spotting the difference can be hard..
Generally, the major difference between most co-op and internships programs is that co-ops usually consist of alternating academic programs and paid work terms. Throughout the course of their time in school, a student might take three or more co-op placements at different companies or organizations, with the expectations for the student rising at each subsequent placement.
Internships are usually a “one-and-done” model, with a student doing one internship during their time in school. An internship might last 12 to 16 months, during which they become more comfortable with the work and take on more responsibilities.
That being said, there are a few co-op programs that function more like internships: students take multiple work terms back-to-back with the same organization. In Canada, a not-for-profit organization, Co-operative Education and Work-Integrated Learning Canada (CEWIL) accredits co-op programs that meet their criteria.
Sharing your reflection can be a great way to initiate a conversation with your supervisor about what you’ve been enjoying working on thus far, or areas of work you’d like to explore. While your supervisor may be assessing your performance during and after your work placement, sharing some of your takeaways can be beneficial as long as it stays positive and solution-driven. Opening up this channel of communication can reinforce your relationship with your supervisor and lead to new opportunities and new directions.
Try to answer these questions during and after your placement in order to assess yourself and reflect on your experience:
- What was my biggest personal take away from my work placement?
- What was my most significant accomplishment during my work placement?
- What was my most significant challenge during my work placement?
- What skills have I learned from my work placement?
- What areas could I improve on for my next work placement or professional experience?
- How does this work placement fit into my career path/journey?
Some FAQs at a glance
A resume’s main goal is to get you an interview with the employer. The two basic principles are to keep the resume brief and to be formatted correctly. A standard resume should be 1-2 pages in length (if you have limited experience, keep to 1 page), and in reverse chronological order (most recent on top) when listing your education and work experience. When describing work experiences, use bullet points to list accomplishments (both qualitative and quantitative). Each bullet is a full sentence using action words listing the outcome of that action.
Sections to consider including (Order can very):
- Work Experience
- Volunteer Experience
- Personal Projects
- Hobbies and Extracurricular Activities
For a full resume guide with templates and examples, see University of McGill’s How to write a CV.
Cover letters are about convincing the employer that there is a match between your skills and qualifications, and the employer’s needs. The goal should be to answer the following questions:
- “What do you want the employer to know about you and your experiences?”;
- “Why do you want to work for this organization and work in this role?”, and
- “Why should they hire you?”
The cover letter should fit on one page, and should be tailored to each position, employer, and industry you’re applying to. To customize your cover letter, demonstrate knowledge of the organization and relate your skills and experiences to identify how you can help them accomplish their mandates.
Extra note: Spend some time researching who to address your cover letter. This shows commitment to wanting to go the extra mile, and can help make you stand out from more generic cover letters.
For a full guide with templates and examples, see McGill’s Cover Letter Guide.
The first thing to consider is whether you meet the ‘core’ requirements. If you are able to meet the basic requirements to do the job, then it may be worth applying to. The next step is to consider if you are able and willing to obtain the remaining skills on your own. Although an employer will know that you are missing a requirement, if you have a plan to fill that gap, it may be enough for the employer to give you a chance. Remember that you don’t know who else applied for the role, and you have nothing to lose by trying.
It is important to note that unrelated work experience is still work experience; it shows you’ve reported back to a supervisor, worked as part of a team and followed a work schedule. These past experiences have taught you skills that you can highlight for the position for which you’re applying. For example, human skills such as communication and teamwork are always relevant and in demand.
Other skills can come from different types of experiences:
- Volunteer experience → development of soft skills in a work-like setting, teamwork, etc.
- Education → courses in which you’ve written essays, developed your writing and communication skills; labs or other projects which developed your research and analysis skills, etc.
- Personal projects → websites created, apps developed, blog, podcast, etc.
Your cover letter is your time to shine and showcase how your experiences have taught you the skills to excel in this new position. Draw from your work and volunteer experiences, education background and personal projects outlined in your resume. Always relate these back to the position for which you’re applying and how they’ll help you excel in your new role. Providing evidence of your knowledge of the company to show your interest in the position will also help set you apart.
Your post-secondary institution may have a job portal or website dedicated to listing student jobs from around your community. Each province and territory, as well as the federal government, has a job board available to all. These jobs are posted from all sectors of the economy, including private and public sectors.
Corporate job sites are also a common way to find jobs. Places like Indeed, Workopolis, and Glassdoor are all popular job posting sites. The other place to check out is LinkedIn, where you’ll be able to build up your profile and use it to apply directly to jobs or network with recruiters.
Students who have to work from home require different skills than working within an office. Working at home means less oversight from your direct supervisor, which requires you to have good time and self management. Demonstrating your ability to work under little supervision as well as manage your time effectively to reach deadlines. Communication also becomes very important; your supervisor needs to trust that you can clearly communicate when you need help or when you’d like more work to be assigned to you.
For more information, see STU’s Working from home: A guide for STU interns.
Explore all FAQs for students
Explore all FAQs for students