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I'm in my school's co-op program and have been working for a company for a while. The school's co-op councillor is coming tomorrow and she knows I'm not happy with the job. My question is:

How do I prepare to talk to her?

I notice every time I try to explain things that are bothering me my brain turns to mush and it sounds like I'm ranting. An example of why I don't like the job is because the people I work with only care about appearance and not getting work done, for example today my boss told me "I need to learn to deflect questions" when doing tech support work. Should I mention this as an example? I realize there probably isn't much my co-op councillor can do so is the most mature thing to say that: "It's not going well but I realize there isn't much anyone can do"?

  • Is it the fact you're not doing well or not having a good time? Work Placement as far as I'm aware shouldn't be fun but a learning experience...correct me if I'm wrong. – Michael Grubey Jul 5 '13 at 8:19
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    Could you explain a bit more about this co-op program and the role of your co-op councillor in this? Do they have responsibility for the placement or your performance? Are you responsible for showing them you are giving it your all? What is their relationship with you and/or the company you are co-oping for? – jmac Jul 5 '13 at 8:39
  • Have you spoken with your academic advisor? I think a pre-meeting with your advisor where you can describe the situation in detail would be much more helpful than any advice you can get here. If your advisor isn't a good choice, perhaps you know another working professional. – kevin cline Jul 5 '13 at 15:57
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If your "brain turns to mush" when you talk to her maybe you should make a list of things before you talk to her. Good and bad - take a note right away. It's always hard to remember examples afterwards.

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I think it's well worth talking to your councillor about your problems. That's the great thing about co-ops, they are learning experiences, and if you have support from your university, take it. This is a chance to improve on the job skills before you are stuck in a certain job, and I'd say take advantage of all the mentoring and training that's available!

Some stuff for prepping and getting the most out of a meeting:

Planning for the Meeting:

Plan time for you and your councillor to get together, in private, for a dedicated amount of time. While it's often typical for the student to let the councillor take the lead in setting up a meeting, if the meet up does not seem to be adequately private or booked for long enough (an hour is a good plan), then take the lead in advocating for it.

And if you haven't, mention that you need the time to get some serious guidance. That gives the councillor a heads up that this is important to you.

Preparing your Thoughts:

It's not uncommon to have thoughts about a workplace come up as mush. Different people find different ways of clarifying their thoughts prior to an important meeting. The real key is to find a fairly quick way of summarizing the issue, stating your goal, and leaving time for a discussion on what to do next. If you spend a lot of time on a full history or specific examples, you may miss the opportunity to get help or guidance.

Some of this is an introvert/extrovert thing. For the most part, introverts will work through an issue in a solitary manner - writing down thoughts, reflecting, or otherwise being alone with their thoughts seems to help a great deal. Extroverts often need people around to think - when they seem to be ranting or whining, they are (hopefully) working out better ways to phrase ideas. Either way, most folks benefit from some mental rehearsal time.

A key thing to think about is what change in the current state of things would make you happy? For example, are you looking to:

  • change the way you do work in the current position
  • look for a new position
  • know enough to find a better job on the next coop
  • warn her so she doesn't send other people to this coop

She may have other ideas, too... but if you don't have some vision for what you want in the end, you likely won't find any useful resolution. The end goal can simply be having a better sense of your current options. That's totally valid.

Situations & Examples

These can be good - in moderation and when used with a point. Particularly if there is a single case that is particularly annoying or a classic example of a problem. But keep the story short and sweet. And focus on what your take away from the experience was - you can't really change other people, so focusing on what they "should have done" for you isn't going to be useful. Focusing on how you can change these interactions in the future (or just avoid them) is a better use of your time.

I say that particularly because every interaction has two sides. Clearly you've interpreted the interactions so far in a fairly negative, demotivating way - that may be fair, but there may be another side to it.

When you cite an example, be aware that the example itself can become a false lead. It sounds like your problem is really a trend of interactions leading you to dissatisfaction in your current job. Fixing a single instance of these interactions isn't going to make you happy - you want a fix to the overall issue. So when using examples, be sure that you are clear that you aren't looking for a one time fix.

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You should say fairly little, instead try to focus on listening.

Jobs suck, but you sound as though you're not learning too much in your co-op. As tech support, you do need to learn how to deflect questions. And while getting work done is important, appearance is very often more impactful to the company's success than your ability to fix technical issues. If people feel as though the company doesn't want to help, or cares that their stuff is broken they're far less likely to buy your product/services again.

So explain your concerns, but remember that your goal with the co-op and this meeting is to learn. Ask what you can do to improve yourself either in work effectiveness or in your own happiness. Listen to what they have to say.

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