Letter to the Coop Students of Next Year By: Chris Hum

I'd like to begin the letter with...

Dear Future Coop Student,

You will do grunt work

Or at least, that’s the most likely case.

On the off-chance that you don’t, kudos to you, you might like it slightly more (or build character slightly less).

Alright, so lets get a job description going here...

I worked in Pharmacy at Shoppers. Essentially my role was a pseudo-pharmacy assistant.

For anyone who doesn’t know what that is, my roles included, counting pills, filling prescriptions, putting away medications, and filing completed prescriptions away. I am still learning how to enter prescriptions.

For anyone who wants to know more, I suggest viewing my presentation.
My two pieces of advice are as suggested; attitude and networking.

Remember to enter your placement with an open mind. It should not take very long to realize that you possess none of the required base knowledge to learn any of the skills the professionals around you hold. So if you came into coop imagining that you will learn learn content that other students will envy you for, you know, keep dreaming.

Coop exists to pique your interest, not to satiate it. That’s what you pay eight grand in university for.

But as I said before, keep an open mind. In exchange for being in their workplace, they expect you to participate. And more often then not, this means grunt work, since you have few other skills. In the case that you have a good supervisor, or one that has had coop students before, they will most likely have a program in place where they will teach what they think you can grasp.

Personally, I found the work alright, mostly because of the employees there who were doing some of the same things, on top of some of the more advanced things.

Which brings me to my next point, networking.

By networking, I really mean just getting to know other people better. Not to bring your full-out George Soros impersonation and update your stack of business cards as much as possible.

As I said before, it was the other employees that made the work more tolerable.

Imagine, for instance, being stuffed into a storage room to sort files. The door is shut, and their parting words resound, “I expect this done in two hours”. Think of this in comparison to being asked nicely to help file, while in full view of employees who are making jokes and generally taking your mind off things.

I hope we can all agree that the second scenario is much preferable.

Networking makes your placement tolerable, attitude makes you tolerable.

One challenge I faced at my coop placement was realizing the two tips above. Mostly from the way that the cooperative education program was hyped, and because of my own naive, preconceived notions, I believed I was there to learn, in a program tailored to suit me. I knew that I was brilliant, and could only dream of what I was going to get out of the program. I was slightly self-centered at the time.

And I was definitely not expecting grunt work.

As I mentioned before, it was the other employees who quelled my thoughts of “Ugh, this is really boring”. They helped my fit in by telling me what I was currently doing was what they were doing when they previously began. Eventually, I found that I no longer minded the feeling of doing repetitive work, as long as it was among friends.

My overall impression of the pharmacy was a good one. I learned skills that I would most likely have not learned otherwise.

I learned how to talk to people. To network, as it is often called.

In my previous placement, a physiotherapy clinic, I felt left out because of how the other employees seemed very focused in their work. I felt like a spirit yet to pass on, drifting forlornly from room to room, to watch from within the walls and be ignored.

I didn’t fit in. I felt ignored.

I sought refuge in pondering what exactly happened in the various exercises my supervisor told his patients to do. I put together a system, mostly an explanation to why I believed that something worked, to satisfy my errant curiosity. An explanation on sciatica, I believe it was. I had hoped that surely, surely, he would be proud. And maybe I’d finally, you know, be noticed.

And to this I was told over and over, harshly I felt at the time, that I had no business thinking of these things.

It was useless to learn. If I wanted to learn in this way, to go back to school.

That it didn’t matter.

That I couldn't possibly expect him to discuss medical terminology with a child of little base knowledge.

Eventually, I was assigned a filing job in a separate room. To which I felt like the fledgling wizard from J.K. Rowling’s books, told to keep out of sight because his uncle has visitors over.

But I did learn something from this.

I learned to network, that people can make any situation better.

I learned to keep an open mind. And I entered my next placement.

“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven..”

- John Milton, Paradise Lost

But in this case, it’s people.

Best Wishes,


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