Student staff members are an integral part of many higher education offices, and having a strong hiring and training process helps set the tone for a successful year. Here are a few of my takeaways from supervising students in both residence life and career services.
Identify and develop talent early on
Even if you are hiring juniors or seniors, pay attention to the first and second year students you interact with who have potential, and encourage their involvement so they can step into positions when the time is right. Make sure you also have a broad reach when finding candidates. Ask faculty and staff for recommendations, advertise to student organizations, and consider carefully your criteria and the wording of your position postings. It can be easy to set such high standards that we unknowingly discourage some students from applying, so focus on the essential qualities/skills you are seeking and respect students’ time in the process. Do you need multiple letters of recommendation and for the student to answer 8 essay questions, or would a resume/cover letter suffice?
Involve Others in Hiring
We all have biases, and that’s why it’s helpful to have more than one opinion when hiring. Recognize the differences between your personal preferences when it comes to work style/strengths and what is truly important to identify and assess when hiring for the role. Students are very perceptive when it comes to their peers, so involve your current staff as appropriate in the selection process.
Mix up How and When Training is Delivered
Consider the essential knowledge/skills your staff needs to have, and then figure out the best way to get them trained while recognizing different learning styles. I currently supervise seniors who assist other undergraduate students with baseline career development services. We have one partial day of training as a group, so I focus that time on teambuilding, reviewing expectations and how they’ll be evaluated, and highlighting the resources, systems, processes, etc. so they understand the big picture of how our office works and their role in it. During the following week as they come in to the office individually and start shadowing professional staff members in advising appointments, they read a detailed manual and follow a training outline at their own pace that walks them through our resources and systems. At the end of the week I assess them individually to determine their readiness and comfort level for meeting with students. Of course, helping a student with a resume is a lot different than conducting an admissions tour or handling a duty situation, so the training process that works for you and your student staff is going to vary depending on their role.
Assess and Adapt
Training continues throughout the year, but once the student workers have settled into the role I ask them how training could have been more beneficial for them, and I incorporate that feedback into the process for the following year. Their honest feedback throughout their time in our office and as they are leaving helps me know what’s working and what can be improved.
Please add to the conversation and comment with what has worked for you!
This post is part of our #SACareer series, addressing careers in student affairs, careers outside of student affairs, and the work of career services professionals. Read more about the series in Jake Nelko’s intro post. Each post is a contribution by a member or friend of the Commission for Career Services from ACPA. Our organization exists to benefit the careers of career services professionals, student affairs professionals, and anyone supporting students in the career endeavors. For more information about how to get involved with the Commission for Career Services or the #SACareer blog series, contact Jake Nelko at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Podcast on Sinclair Ceasar on Successful Supervision