Colleges

The Power of Perspective: Reframing Tutoring Jobs to Attract Top Students

How do students view tutoring jobs on your campus?

If you run a tutoring program, you probably have some some pretty high hopes here. You hope it’s a desirable role for students, with a reputation for having a lot to offer. You hope that students understand how rewarding it is to be a peer tutor and how it can help them develop professional skills. In short, you hope the role attracts top students and you wish that even more students knew just how great of an opportunity it is.

This highlights an important consideration: the student perspective of tutoring jobs. This reflection invites us to breathe new life into tutoring programs, making them more appealing, dynamic, and engaging for current and potential employees. How can tutoring jobs be seen as exciting, fun, or interesting? Just because the work may be behind-the-scenes doesn’t mean it has to be dull. It’s time for us to reinvent the college tutoring program as a place for tutors to experience growth and development, establish a sense of community, and become a leader on campus.

Building and positioning tutoring jobs as transformational, rather than transactional, not only helps attract top students but also helps you achieve other program goals. By virtue of elevating the role of your tutors, you will also elevate the quality of your tutoring program, enhance its visibility on campus, and increase student interest in tutoring services.

Indeed, the power of perspective challenges us to not just reframe tutoring jobs in terms of marketing but to also ensure that the tutoring programs themselves are designed for the 21st century. Here are three ways you can reframe tutoring jobs to attract top students on your campus.

Tutoring Jobs as a Valuable Leadership Development Opportunity

Consider why students seek out any leadership opportunity on campus — it’s an outside-the-classroom experience that helps them meet other students, develop new skills, boost their resume, and grow professionally. It’s an activity where they get to help other students succeed in college while working alongside new peers who often become great friends. These experiences will also become important talking points in future interviews.

These are all reasons why students seek out forms student involvement that are traditionally-considered leadership development opportunities. For example, many resident assistants, orientation leaders, and student organization officers would share these exact reasons when asked about why they got involved on campus. This should lead you to consider whether your campus tutors would do the same. If they don’t already view their tutoring work as an opportunity with similar value, how can the work be reframed so that they do?

First, it may be helpful to consider the kind of mentorship you are able to provide for your tutors. Iowa GROW shows us a new way to envision the supervision of student employees that marries supervision and mentorship for more effective guidance that helps students better develop and articulate their skills. In a tutoring role, this can help students challenge themselves to experience the kind of growth that many student leaders on campus aspire to achieve.

Tutoring jobs can also attract top students if they are more robust in terms of leadership skills training. After all, knowing course material and actually tutoring someone in that content are two different competencies. The latter is a skill that is best developed through tutor-specific training, like that outlined by CRLA. Training that includes information about other campus resources can elevate tutors to be on par with other student leaders. For example, many student leaders learn about the counseling center, food pantry, or Title IX office as part of their training. Tutors benefit from this same level of awareness, since it empowers them to be “effective advocates and resource-and-referral agents” for their students. 

Knack Tutoring Training: The Basics is a 2-hour, online training module that was developed in partnership with CRLA. Knack tutors at the University of Florida (UF) shared their thoughts with us from tutor training in June 2020. One student shared, “I thought this training would be about how to be a better tutor for the students. I didn’t expect all of the benefits of being a tutor.” Another remarked that “the professional skill building is something I never thought about but have definitely seen improvement in personally during my time tutoring.” These reflections highlight that tutoring jobs can be reimagined and reframed to attract top students, who are happy to be shown the value of their work when it includes development opportunities like leadership training. 

Tutoring Jobs as an Experiential Career Development Opportunity

To attract top students, it’s critical that tutoring work is positioned as a campus employment choice rich in career preparation. This effort helps flesh out for students the ways in which tutoring work can be on par with other campus opportunities in terms of how it prepares them for future interviews and jobs.

The first step in making this work more valuable for top students is ensuring that myths about tutors are dispelled and those barriers are removed. Next, you can focus on enhancing your program with tutor-specific training modules like those the College of Charleston employs. You can even try connecting tutoring work to badging opportunities to further help students understand the value of this work as it relates to preparing for their careers. Similarly, highlighting how tutoring jobs help you develop highly-valued NACE career competencies can grab the attention of top students looking for involvement that stretches their skills. 

For example, one Knack Tutor at UF stated, “I never realized that I was building professional skills by learning how to analyze, learn, repackage, and teach knowledge as well as how to think.” Another noted that “it’s invaluable to be able to read people’s preferences, and essentially, absorb, synthesize, and present clear ideas to your client.” These point directly to the NACE career competencies we must remember to highlight as part of what tutors can develop in these roles.

Learning how tutoring work can help tutors tap into their entrepreneurial mindset, place them in the nexus of student success, or attract employers like Shell Oil (who specifically seek out tutors) can broaden your own view of the role in a way that goes on to influence your tutor recruitment strategies for the better. As one Knack Tutor at UF shared, “I have thought so much about what I can give that I sometimes forget of what benefits [tutoring] can bring me in building professional skills.” Certainly, it is our responsibility to reframe tutoring jobs so that students are often reminded of this.

Tutoring Jobs as an Excellent Personal Brand Development Opportunity 

Top students are looking for ways to leave their mark on campus. They get excited about a chance to bring their passion, personality, and vision to an environment where they can connect with others and make a difference. If we want to attract top students to tutoring jobs, we must show them how we can help them do just that. 

In an era of Instagram influencers and big brands with big personalities, many of today’s students value jobs where they have the freedom to be themselves, add their ideas, and be creative. Since Gen Z talent is more likely to pursue entrepreneurship, if you want to attract top students to tutoring work, it’s critical to be innovative in how you present the opportunity to them. Powering tutoring with technology, for example, may show these students how it can meet their expectations as interesting work that offers independence and flexibility. 

To attract top students, we must show them that tutoring jobs are dynamic. The work is not simply repeating lecture content to a student. Instead, good tutoring is relationship-driven, which makes room for a tutor to bring themselves to the role rather than carry out rote tasks. It includes adapting approaches to different learning styles, being a good active listener, demonstrating empathy, and creating positive relationships with their students. One Knack Tutor at UF initially thought it would be more of a business relationship, but they realized quickly realized that it was something different: “I didn’t think it would be such a personal connection where I would be sharing my insight as a student and taking into account their background. I also didn’t expect to grow much myself.” 

It’s also possible for tutors to make this work their own if they have a supervisor who utilizes the Iowa GROW approach. These mentor-focused relationships include developmental conversations and working towards personal goals that foster a tutor’s growth and allow them to customize their job experience. In addition, collaborations with key campus partners like career services can also help attract more students. With this support, tutors have more direction on how to speak confidently in future interviews, helping them tell their story of how tutoring work has positioned them for career success.  

For one Knack Tutor at UF, Knack Tutoring Training: The Basics shed some light on what’s possible. “It is the first time I’m thinking about connecting tutoring skills to professional skills in jobs,” they said. Such realizations remind us that there are exciting opportunities to reframe tutor recruitment by demonstrating the true comprehensive value of tutoring jobs, ultimately attracting more top students.

Curious how Knack can help you reframe tutoring jobs to get your tutoring program to that next level of success? Find out more at joinknack.com/colleges.

Written by Priya Thomas

Priya Thomas helps campuses enrich peer learning experiences and improve student outcomes as a Campus Success Lead for Knack. She has 15 years of experience in higher education and student affairs, including work with wellness, mental health, student leadership and involvement, and fraternity and sorority life. She enjoys discovering local restaurants, travel, and learning new things. Connect with her on Twitter.