Before I started my first Co-op with K4 Architecture + Design, I had no idea what to except. There were so many questions running through my mind. What skills will I use that I learned from school? Those samples I have to order are free right? Is my boss cool? What if I don’t know how to do that in AutoCAD? I get my own desk!? It’s hard to be perfectly prepared for your first co-op because everyone’s experience is different. Below are the top five lessons I learned on my first co-op that may help you get a better understanding of the work-study experience and the relationship between professionals and students.
- Don’t feel as though you are expected to know everything! The entire purpose of a work-study opportunity is to branch out from school and learn how to function in the real world. Your new colleagues will understand that you are still learning and help guide you through any problems you might have. Now, the more prior knowledge you have can only help, but without a doubt I can say that I learned something new every day at work.
- “Creativity takes courage.” Although this is a common saying, I did not understand the full meaning of it until one of my coworkers explained its relevance to the design world. Every day designers take their own, original ideas and present them to groups of people with the chance that they might hate the design. It can be a struggle and take several attempts to get the design right for the client because there is no formula for designers, just our own imaginations and sharing that with others takes a lot of courage.
- Be a sponge. There are tons of helpful tips and tricks you can absorb just by immersing yourself in the work environment. Everyday, coworkers discuss problems and solutions they have with a certain project and listening to these conversations can further your understanding of the professional world. Just by asking what someone is working on, I have learned new tools in Adobe programs, developed a better understanding of the design intention behind projects, and have become closer with colleagues. So, be a sponge and absorb everything you can while on co-op!
- Make connections. Different people come in and out of the office every day. It’s important to take the time to introduce yourself because you never know who you’re going to be working with in the future. While out at a job site, I had the opportunity to talk to the President of a cabinetry company. We ended up having a great conversation about his business and because of this, I now have a new professional connection that I would not have had without introducing myself. You don’t always get the chance to talk to the people that your firm is working with, and it is important to maintain a good relationship with them, not only for yourself but for the company as a whole.
- Bring it on! There are going to be times when multiple people are asking you to accomplish many different tasks; take on the challenge! Co-op was a really great time for me to push myself. I always made time to work on extra projects and do as much as possible with the time given to me. The long and frustrating days will only make you a better designer so bring them on and push through it!
As my co-op term is ending, these five lessons will help prepare me for my next co-op term and I hope they help prepare you as well! Working with K4 Architecture + Design was a great learning experience and opened my eyes to the “behind the scenes” work that goes into Architectural projects. This group of men and women can openly share ideas with one another, are critical thinkers, and constantly strive to better themselves. Not to mention they are using these lessons I have shared with you in their everyday routine! This team is dependable with tasks and always helped answer my questions. They also showed me how to talk to clients, contractors, sales representatives, and other professionals in a professional manner while still having fun! With that being said, I have learned much more than I could have expected from co-op and I am thankful to have been taught under the professionals at K4.