Hiring a Co-Op
One of the many reasons I like working for my boss, Carol Galle, is she comes up with creative ideas for solving problems. When facing a staffing challenge two years ago, Carol suggested we bring in a high school student for a few hours in the afternoon to help with light administrative work. We needed someone reliable, someone we could trust, someone with computer skills, someone who could jump in and help without being asked. In our fast-moving events industry with not a lot of room for error, I wasn’t sure a sixteen-year-old was the right solution. However, Carol and I had both been part of co-op (Cooperative Education) programs in the past, and it supported our company’s desire for community engagement, so we launched our unofficial co-op program by contacting the local high school for a candidate.
After phone screening and interviewing multiple candidates, we found our match in Lundyn. Lundyn’s kindness and poise during the interview process stood out. We knew she had limited experience in an office environment, but unsurprisingly, she was well-versed in technology.
As with any employee, onboarding for success is critical. Despite the fact Lundyn was only scheduled to work a few hours after school each day and only for a semester, we made the decision to onboard her the same as any other part-time employee. For instance, we shared our company’s goals, key policies, culture, and reviewed her job description in detail.
At first, Lundyn was given limited access and responsibility within the Operations Department, supporting our team members with administrative tasks. All assignments were detailed to minimize ambiguity. For instance, instead of asking her to ship a package, we would say, seal the box, weigh the box, contact carriers for price/delivery options, review options with requestor, create label, attach label, and order pick up. This took a little more time on our end but helped ensure she was capturing all the pieces and learning along the way. With each assignment, we identified a staff member Lundyn could follow up with for more direction or support.
As Lundyn’s supervisor, I was thrilled at how quickly she caught on and became an asset to our department. She was soon invited to sit in on internal meetings and training sessions. We solicited her input, especially with technology and trends. For her part, Lundyn will tell you she learned to prioritize. Not that she wasn’t already prioritizing with her school work, but she found an office environment is a whole different ball game. What was urgent and what could wait wasn’t immediately evident to her, so clear communication between us was important.
Soon Lundyn’s assignments required less oversight and we felt confident offering her support to the rest of the company. Her value increased, and she began to learn more about how the business worked. The commitment of one semester kept extending. In what seemed like a blink of an eye, two years passed and Lundyn graduated from high school this spring. After simultaneously succeeding in both school and a professional work environment, she will be attending the University of Michigan with plans for majoring in business.
Having a multi-generational workforce is a gift and, in many ways, Lundyn taught me as much as I hope we taught her. I’m looking forward to seeing her future unfold and, in the meantime, how much I can learn from the next candidate!