Co-op Turned Career: How One Student Used the Co-op System to Find a Job After Graduation
December 07, 2015
This is one of a regular series profiling Drexel students and their co-ops.
Before starting a co-op in Dublin, Ireland, during her second-to-last-term, political science major Hannah Abrams had no idea what she wanted to do after graduation.
Flash forward three months: After a stint as an intern for the HIV/AIDS team at Concern Worldwide, an international humanitarian nonprofit, Abrams was so sure she wanted to continue working in the HIV/AIDS humanitarian sector that she’s already applied for and accepted a job at Dexis Consulting Group as a project assistant.
“Throughout the whole co-op experience, I had a really tough time picturing my future,” she said. “I am so relieved that I know what I want to do now — so relieved! — and I would not have known that without the co-op system.”
Previously, Abrams switched from an international area studies (IAS) major and political science minor to a political science major and international area studies minor during her junior year. The switch was mostly because of degree requirements, and she will now have graduated from her five-year program in just over four years after the conclusion of the fall term.
Throughout her time at Drexel, Abrams always knew she wanted to help people.
“I know a lot of people say that, but I always knew I wanted to do something helping people. I just didn’t know what area I wanted to focus on,” she said.
Past internships and co-ops had only shown Abrams what she didn’t want to do, or what type of work wasn’t going to help her. For example, while studying abroad, Abrams completed a position working for the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium; while she found the environment to be exciting, the work she was given didn’t allow her to truly grow or learn.
It wasn’t until her co-op at Concern Worldwide that she discovered a passion for helping children and working in the HIV/AIDS and health fields. And to think, she would have never realized that if she hadn’t opened an email from the co-op office at the Steinbright Career Development Center.
“I thought I knew where I was going to do my final co-op, but then I got an email about doing an international co-op. I decided on a whim to check out the links, clicked on the one about opportunities in Dublin and found that all you had to do was send a résumé and click a button. Before I knew it, I was at the co-op office and they helped me with everything I needed to do — even after I left the U.S. for my co-op,” she said.
As soon as she started her new internship, Abrams says she was put to work.
“I was writing these meta-evaluations while I was there about HIV/AIDS practices and everything. I went through the company’s evaluations of programs that Concern has done — they’re a pretty big organization over there — and compiled everything together as a huge project. Now I’m leaving with these meta-evaluations that I can show when people ask me for a writing sample. My supervisor even helped me refine it to make it as clear and concise as possible,” she said.
Her previous IAS classes at Drexel gave her a leg-up at Concern Worldwide, as did Co-op 101.
“Right before I left for this co-op, I took this class on qualitative and quantitative research methods. My new coworkers would talk about quantitative methods and used all these terms that I had just learned about — I was so excited because I could nod and help carry on the conversation and know that what I was saying was actually correct because of what I learned in my class,” said Abrams.
When she wasn’t working, Abrams travelled a good amount in Ireland. She visited many counties in the country while meeting and befriending locals and fellow expats. She says it was one of the best things she has ever done.
These newfound people skills, and professional experiences, played a role in Abram’s post-graduation job search, which started just two days after she came back from Ireland.
Abrams visited a job fair for Dexis Consulting Group, where she networked with current employees and got to know someone who helped her find a job within the company. She accepted a position a few weeks later, during week four of her final term.
“Now it’s such a relief to know I have a job after graduation. Plus, I negotiated a salary that will actually let me live in Washington, D.C., so I’m very happy,” she said.
Her eventual goal is to work on public policy, culminating with a dream job at UNICEF. But for now, she can’t wait to start her new job, where she’ll assist the program manager in charge of the company’s global health initiative funded by USAID.
About the Drexel Co-op program: More than 98 percent of eligible undergraduate students at Drexel University participate in the co-op program, balancing full-time classes and up to three different internships during their time at Drexel. Students can choose from more than 1,600 employers in 33 states and 48 international locations — plus endless possibilities through self-arranged placements.