Embracing the Unknown

“Strange about learning; the farther I go the more I see that I never knew even existed.” -Daniel Keyes

As I read the current installment of reflection and discussion responses from students who are currently on co-op for the summer, Keyes’ quote is more true than ever, but I am not surprised. Our group of four career advisors here on campus share a lot of sayings, but one of our favorites sounds oddly familiar to Keyes, though far less poetic.

You don’t know what you don’t know.

We are constantly reminding our students of the unknown, because they are struggling to make career-related decisions without really knowing what’s out there. Those on co-ops are learning more about what is out there and some of those things they “never knew even existed.” When these students return to campus, they will come knowing a little more, worrying a little less, and working even harder, because they experienced, they learned, and their path became a little less winding.

If you are on the other side, as a supervisor or co-worker to a co-op student, I will leave you with some of their words. Nearly all of them credited those around them as to why their experiences were so englightening and valuable. While the work was part of their experience, a common theme was their appreciation for how they were treated while on site. Here’s what they said worked:

  • Surround them with people with whom they can trust, especially when asking questions
  • Provide honest feedback, because they want to learn and they want to learn to do it right
  • Make them feel valued – their work, their ideas, and their contributions
  • Take the time to get to know them and their lives outside of the workplace

The students on co-op are very aware of how much they don’t know and use every opportunity to learn something new each and every day, but those of us who have been doing our work for a while may be less observant. As you finish your day, think back and try to identify something new – what did you see that you never knew even existed?  We may be surprised.


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