We’ve explored previously the importance of developing soft skills with your students. The first step towards doing this is making sure you are creating meaningful work for your students to do. This way, you’re set up for success with all types of skills for your students, and you are making the best use of your students’ time.
Broadly, there are a set of skills that are generally agreed upon by organizations like NACE to be valuable for all students to have. Things like professionalism, leadership, and critical thinking. Putting students into campus jobs where they’re using their strengths, not just doing busywork, and working with both staff members as well as fellow students, will build these needed 21st-century skills.
Figure out what their strengths and goals are
A good place to start with your student workers is to assess where they are, what they’re good at, and what they’d like to accomplish. It doesn’t matter if they’re a resident assistant, orientation leader, tour guide, peer tutor, or front desk worker. We can work to make sure their time is used in a meaningful way. There are plenty of tools to learn more about our strengths, personality, and the like, so find one that works for you (and your budget) then discuss it while also learning about the student’s goals. This will allow you to contour what duties the student is tasked with to give them a more fruitful experience.
Not just busywork, work to build meaningful skills
The temptation when you have a student worker may be to dump all of the busywork and administrative tasks you don’t want to do onto them. While the ability to delegate this sort of work can be helpful, it shouldn’t be the focus of what a student worker is doing. Since you’ve identified goals with them, try to incorporate other projects that align with these goals that really contribute something unique to the team. This can potentially include connecting learning happening in the classroom for the student to the work they’re doing in your office. That really takes the student experience to the next level and provides value to everything the student is doing on campus. Take, for example, how Southwest Advantage frames their work for potential student candidates and what they’ll get out of it. They’re doing hard work for great benefits afterwards no matter what field they’re looking to get into. They’re building skills like how to handle rejection and how to self-manage.
Work with staff and students
In the same vein of not just sequestering students with busywork, you shouldn’t isolate them for any project they’re working on either. It can deepen the learning taking place to have students both reflect and process with staff members, as well as apply their skills when working with other students. So much of the student leader roles are already primed for this, so it serves us well to prime our student workers to do their best work. Helping others can have so many positive benefits, such as valuing social justice, being empathetic, and being aware of the impact of your actions. It matters less what the work is, and much more what the student gets out of it.
Striving for meaningful work for your students has a number of benefits, but the biggest one for your institution is going to be retaining more students. These students are learning, growing, building experience, and forging bonds with their staff and their fellow students. It creates so many opportunities to further the student’s learning environment, which is the mission for us all at the end of the day.
Learn how you can leverage Knack to drive meaningful and impactful campus jobs on your campus, joinknack.com/partnerships.
Written by Dustin Ramsdell
Dustin helps students succeed everyday in his role as a Student Success Lead at Noodle Partners. He is also a proud geek as well as a higher ed blogger, and podcaster. He loves craft beer, good movies, and deep conversations. Connect with him on Twitter or over at his blog.