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Work Term Objectives and Reflections

The co-op program is here to help you develop skills and abilities to excel in your field of choice. Setting work term objectives is a practical exercise that makes this achievement possible.

Competency development objectives

The uOttawa Co-operative Education Program helps you develop the skills you need to excel in your field of choice. Setting uOCompetency objectives makes this possible.

  • Competency development objectives are goals you set for your co-op work term. They combine your supervisor’s expectations and your own learning goals to create specific performance targets. When you and your supervisor develop your objectives together, you help ensure a successful work term for everyone involved. Note that setting work objectives is a common practice in many workplaces.
  • Please write 3 competency development objectives per co-op work term.  Review the uOCompetencies modules in the Co-op Virtual Campus (Brightspace) course for more details. 

Elements to consider:

  • Your goals may change and evolve over the course of your experiences and should be revised regularly.
  • If you do not achieve 100% of your objectives at the end of your experience, simply explain the reasons in your reflections.
  • Use the SMARTS formula to assess the accuracy of your objectives as well as the actions you took to achieve them, the results, and the outcomes.
  • Use a journal to keep track of your thoughts and experiences, as these valuable notes could be used to evaluate your goals or as anecdotal examples in your reflective evaluation.

Working closely with your supervisor is key to being successful in the co-op education learning experience. By meeting with your supervisor early in the work term and regularly throughout the placement period, you will be better able to:

  • Clearly articulate specific job requirements and performance expectations.
  • Apply your academic learning in the work environment.
  • Focus your efforts and be productive from the start.
  • Work efficiently and see the results of your efforts.
  • Recognize and benefit from available performance opportunities.
  • Work with greater motivation and energy.
  • Increase your involvement in the job as the term progresses.
  • Improve your performance from one term to the next.

In short, work term objectives help you give your very best - and have the best possible placement experience.

S.M.A.R.T.S. framework

Work term objectives are effective if they meet some basic criteria: (a) they use the S.M.A.R.T.S. format (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Rewarding, Time-sensitive, and Shared) and (b) they are understood as works in progress and in need of regular (re)vision.

Specific: Objectives need to be precise.

Oftentimes, objectives are too vague, for example, "I will work hard". A specific objective outlines precise details, for example, "I will thoroughly document my work and communicate my progress in weekly team meetings."

Measurable: Objectives need to be quantifiable.

Measurable objectives give concrete information, for example, "I will produce three mini reports and one final report during my work term." Including a number and being specific clarifies whether the objective has been met.

Achievable: Objectives need to be reasonable and achievable

At the onset, many students believe they can achieve more than what is reasonable given the available time, resources, and so on. Frequently, success or failure depends on setting practical goals. An unachievable objective would be, "I will revamp the entire SAP system by the end of the work term."

Rewarding: Objectives need to be important to you on a personal level.

Dreams are important. We do need to be wary of objectives such as, "I will overcome my fear of public speaking during this co-op work term." Nevertheless, it is important to stretch ourselves, try new things, and feel rewarded by our personal achievements.

Time-sensitive: Objectives need to have a set date and time.

A due date gives a sense of urgency-the impetus to take action-and therefore increases the likelihood that the objective will be met. In addition, a specific date allows some monitoring of progress.

Shared: Objectives need to be made public.

Work term objectives are effective when you share them with the co-op programs and your work term supervisor. Consequently, at the beginning of the work term you are required to not only create objectives, but also initiate a meeting with your supervisor to discuss and approve the objectives.

Perfection not required

Work term objectives are rarely perfect. But, if you design them with care, an open mind, and the willingness to modify, you will be more effective and productive. In fact, with a little planning up front, you may well exceed your employer's expectations!

Reflection questions enable critical thinking with regards to career path development.

Reflection no. 1

So far, what do you like and dislike about your work term and why? ( For example, what do you think about the tasks, environment, people, roles and responsibilities? )

Example of a good, well-detailed response: It's important that I gain work experience, and the co-op work term is definitely providing that. But I've already discovered that there's more to co-op than just getting paid work experience. For example, I firmly believe that organizations need to act as good corporate citizens. I like that this company has been recognized as a leader in corporate citizenship, and it has encouraged me to participate in one of their initiatives. Corporate citizenship is something I will look for in my future employers. I dislike the commute.

Reflection no. 2

Based on your performance and learning so far, what strategies do you propose for continuing to boost your performance and learning for the remainder of the work term?

Example of a good, well-detailed response: In terms of performance, I complete all the tasks required, I am always prompt, and I work hard. I also make a special point of demonstrating my work ethic by listening carefully to what's required, seeking clarification when necessary and showing initiative by taking on more than what's expected. In terms of learning, I have been asked to chair two meetings, and this has called on my leadership skills and given me the chance to try some of the management strategies covered in my academic program.

However, I do need to learn more about human-resource policies and the strategic plan of the organization. Therefore, I will ask my supervisor to provide me with more information on these topics. If I show the initiative required to learn more, I would boost my performance and learning for the remainder of the term.

Example of a poor, incomplete response: At this time, I would give myself an "A" for my performance and learning. I complete all the tasks required, I am always prompt, and I work hard. Additionally, I am learning a lot.

Working effectively with your supervisor is a key factor for a successful co-op learning experience. Meeting with your supervisor both early in the work term and on an ongoing basis will help you:

  • Clearly understand the job requirements as well as performance and learning expectations
  • Apply academic learning to the work environment
  • Work productively and with direction from the start of the work term
  • Proceed efficiently and effectively
  • Recognize and make the most of performance and learning opportunities
  • Work with greater motivation and energy
  • Increase your contribution as the work term progresses
  • Improve performance and increase what you learn with each work term

Your responsibilities

  • Prepare preliminary uOCompetency development objectives
  • Set a meeting with your work supervisor to communicate your learning goals and ensure you understand their performance expectations
  • Revise uOCompetency development objectives if needed
  • Continually evaluate your performance and adjust as necessary throughout your work term
  • Meet regularly with your supervisor to review performance and receive guidance
  • Examine your progress during the mid-term evaluation
  • Reflect upon your work experience—What have you learned? How can you apply this knowledge?

Supervisor’s responsibilities

  • Meet you early in the work term to discuss job requirements, performance expectations, and your learning goals
  • Work with you to set competency development objectives
  • Provide training and support so you have a successful work term
  • Meet with you regularly to review your performance and provide guidance
  • Review your progress  as part of the mid-term evaluation
  • At the end of the work term, evaluate your performance against your work term objectives

Co-op Office’s responsibilities

  • Answer any questions you or your employer has
  • Follow-up with you and your employer after the mid-term evaluation if requested or required