Ready or not, the new school year is right around the corner and it’s time to start getting ready. In addition to school supplies and dorm/apartment furnishings, an on-campus job should be on your list of things to find (if you don’t already have a job). While internships get the bulk of our attention, on-campus jobs are excellent skill builders and key networking opportunities.
There is such a wide range in the world of on-campus employment, so I am going to focus on just one ubiquitous student job: the general office worker. I use this type of role as an example of the professional development benefits of seemingly irrelevant jobs. Of course, I do base my thoughts off of my own assumption that most students don’t enter college with hopes of becoming a secretary when all is said and done.
Even though you might not want to answer phones, make copies, and run errands as your primary job for the rest of your career, there is a lot to gain from general office work.
Communication is a big part of working in any office environment, but it becomes even more critical when you are helping to keep an office running. In some campus office environments, you might be manning the main desk, like in a campus information services environment. You’re going to be on the receiving end of a lot of questions, and as the face of an office, it’s important to respond in a clear, concise, and professional manner. What if you’re not working the desk but are doing odds and ends around the office (ex. copying, filing)? Communication is still important to make sure you’re completing tasks as you should be.
Customer Service Orientation
Whether or not you will work directly with customers in the future, developing a strong customer service orientation can greatly benefit your career. In most office jobs on campus, you will have a “customer.” The customer could be other students, faculty, and/or community members. It all depends. However, you are working to help someone else. What future employer wouldn’t want to bring someone on board who is focused on helping others, whether that is actual customers or co-workers?
There are so many things to organize in an office environment, so honing strong organization skills is necessary for office survival. In the case of general office work, you might be given projects and you might be working on multiple projects at one time. Not only do you need to learn how to organize how you spend your time at work, but you need to organize the project work itself. This is especially important if you share responsibilities with other office workers or need to pass along a partial project to a co-worker. Your ability to organize your work will say a lot about how efficient and effective an employee you will be.
For college students, the focus always seems to be on internships. However, they aren’t the only gig in town. On-campus jobs can be just as important. And definitely don’t knock office work. It’s more valuable than you might think.
Laura serves as Internship Coordinator at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in the office of Career & Leadership Development. In this role, Laura advises students who are pursuing internships, assists employers with intern recruitment, and supports university faculty who oversee academic internships. She also provides students with job search readiness assistance through presentations, individual counseling, and social media. Laura earned her bachelors degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she majored in French and Political Science, and she received her masters degree in Counseling from UW-Whitewater. To learn more about Laura, read her blog, follow her on Twitter, or connect on LinkedIn.