As we start a new semester and a new calendar year, many of you will be returning to work study assignments. Many work study assignments are not within students’ academic areas or areas of interest and the tasks you’re given may be mundane, but work study can provide you opportunities for personal, professional, and if you’re lucky, academic growth. Most students are keen to use their work study time to get in some valuable study time, but I encourage you to poke your head up to savor the moment you’re in and take a look around you. I’ve got three tips for you on how to take advantage of your work study assignment.
Even if your work study assignment is outside of your academic pursuits, this is a wonderful opportunity to network with professors, administrators and other office staff. When you’ve finished your studies, a professional reference from someone other than a professor can attest to other soft skills you’ll have developed.
Also, relationships that you develop can potentially lead you to other opportunities like internships or research that you might not have previously seen as related to your field.
Develop soft skills
Teamwork and group projects are fundamental in developing soft skills in communication and project management. You can take these skills to a second, applied level in your work study assignment.
For example, if you work at a front desk, you interact with different types of people: middle management, office teammates, customers/clients/fellow students, professors, and members of college administration. If you encounter common requests or questions, you can constantly hone your answers to provide complete responses and cut out any unnecessary or unclear language to develop your verbal communication skills. You can also develop your own signature style in greeting visitors. Continuous work on your verbal skills will allow you to brand yourself as a professional, which will be noticed by your supervisor and anyone you talk to. Bonus points if you take the initiative in developing a FAQ that will allow consistent verbiage and customer service.
If you run errands, you have the opportunity to interact with people outside of your office. You may be the only exposure to your home department that the outside office sees so you can develop your ambassadorship and foster the working relationships that the offices share. Be sure to take the time to learn the names of the people you interact with and make it a point to introduce yourself to any new faces you see. You never know when simple facial and name recognition can play in your favor.
Get your first exposure to the professional world
Up until this point, your employment might have consisted of babysitting, summer lifeguarding, working in fast food or retail or helping out in a small office. A university or college is a community unto itself, with interwoven relationships between departments. Use your work study opportunity to observe how a multi-faceted, multi-dimensional institution works from the inside out.
For example, let’s say you had to visit the financial aid office. You had to wait almost 30 minutes to speak to someone! Little did you know, your work study assignment is assigned to the financial aid office. Some understanding of the business process can give you a completely different perspective on that wait you experienced.
You have a front row seat to observe leadership, conflict, conflict resolution and the programming and preparation involved in launching a campus wide initiative. My advice to you is to look around and be open to these experiences, as they will be valuable as you venture into the work world.
Coming up I’ll be talking about something a bit more fun – a guide to demonstrating your professionalism in work study by way of your personal style.