In my last post, I wrote about the benefits of one specific type of on-campus job: the general office position. With training now in full swing for some of our student staff, I thought I would focus on the benefits of student leader positions on campus.
- Resident Assistants (RAs)
- Campus Tour Guides
- New Student Orientation Leaders
- Activities/Programming Board Roles
When you were choosing your college, did you visit campus and take a tour? When you were preparing for your first semester, did you attend orientation? While living in a residence hall, who kept your floor under control and acted as an in-house support system? Does your university offer social programming (bands, movies, comedians, etc)? I’m pretty sure that most of you should be able to identify these positions on your own campus.
So what do you stand to gain by taking on one of these roles? Plenty!
Developing into a more effective communicator is a huge outcome for these leadership roles. First, most of the aforementioned positions function as part of a team. As a result, it’s very important to have strong internal lines of communication. Second, most of these roles require communicating with external constituents: other students, parents, community members, guests on campus, etc. If you are a Campus Tour Guide, for example, you need to clearly communicate information about the campus to people who are trying to make an informed decision on their college choice. In the case of Orientation Leaders, you need to go into more detail about campus while keeping the message succinct. Since both roles are rather repetitive, you get good at communicating information.
Leadership roles on campus inherently come with heightened responsibilities. Take, for instance, the RA role. RAs help build a community on their floor and throughout the residence hall. However, a big part of building a community is maintaining certain standards, most of which are in writing and have been set down as policies to maintain safety for all residents. Unfortunately, RAs often get targeted as the “bad guys” for initiating the disciplinary process. So as an RA, you are charged with the safety of hundreds of other students, a big responsibility. You also have to learn at a early career stage the delicate process of drawing lines, in this case the line between friendship and your job duties. It’s a difficult job, but it’s one that can be incredibly rewarding.
Campus leaders definitely have an “in” when it comes to networking. Orientation leaders often get to know higher level administrators during summer orientation. Students on activities/programming boards get to work with bands and other acts – small, large, and sometimes even nationally recognized. There also tends to be strong mentoring in these programs, not just supervision. You can get to know some influential people really well.
One of the most important career lessons to pull from one of these roles is the importance of image. A major point these positions share in common is that the students in them often become the face of the institution. Not only are you representing yourself, but you are representing your university as a whole – you’re branding yourself and the school. Of course, you are trained on what image you should be portraying. Sometimes a student in such a position just doesn’t get it, and it serves as a strong learning opportunity for everyone on the team. The branding skills you gain through these positions will benefit you well into your career.
Since these leadership are so ubiquitous, it means that recruiters and HR folks understand them. You might even interview with someone who held the same role. If you take on one of these jobs, you not only build important skills, but you enhance your brand for years to come.
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.