Let’s Work It Out!


This is a special post for the NASPA Annual Conference, highlighting the Student Employment Experience in the Office of Student Life at The Ohio State University.

For both campus colleagues and conference colleagues, below are resources for the NASPA education session – Let’s Work It Out: Envisioning Student Employment as an Educationally Purposeful Activity – presented by Caleb Craft (Student Life Human Resources) and Jen Pelletier (Student Activities) on Monday, March 14 at 3:40 pm in Convention Center Meeting Room 141.

We encourage attendees to utilize the following resources to supplement our session:

We welcome your comments during and after the session. Please use the “Comment” box at the bottom of the page to share your reflections on student employment as an educationally purposeful activity, your plans to incorporate ideas shared into your practice, and to connect with fellow attendees.

For more information or with questions, please email Caleb or email Jen directly.

Student Employment and Good Jobs

The Student Employment Experience (SEE) pursues three main goals:

  1. Create consistency in student employment experiences across the Office of Student Life
  2. Enable students to articulate what they’re learning through employment
  3. Connect campus employment with academic success and career plans

This week, the SEE blog is focusing on #2 and #3.

From an About Campus article in the March/April 2014 issue – “A Good Job Is Hard to Find…Until Students Know What They Do Best” – Shane Lopez shares his perspective on the university’s role in helping students find a good job. While he makes some very interesting points about campus career resources, there’s also potential for application within the context of student employment.

Students Are Looking For Good Jobs

Dr. Lopez writes that recent research (Gallup/Lumina Foundation) identified the two deciding factors in a student choosing a university: jobs data and price point. In other words, for potential students, the percentage of graduates who get a good job is as important as the cost of attending that university.

In a 2013 nationwide survey (Gallup), it was uncovered that employees with college degrees are less likely to be engaged at work than their peers with high school education or less. In other words, even once students find a job after graduation, they may not be happy or fulfilled by it.

By digging deeper into that research, they found that college graduates were less likely to agree with the statement “At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.” Gallup’s research tells us this is one of the critical indicators of workplace engagement. The identification of this as a determining factor for recent college graduates may create an opportunity for Student Life staff and supervisors to positively influence students before they graduate.

How Can Student Employment be Leveraged for a Good Job?

One way to help students pursue a good job is by helping raise their self-awareness about their own strengths. We can’t expect students to “do what they do best every day” if they can’t yet articulate what they do best. This is the second goal of SEE – helping students articulate their learning.

Through student employment, we can do that in a couple of ways.

  1. An employment experience provides the opportunity for students to try new things, which may help them identify examples of what they do well. When we hire students with little previous work experience, or promote students into peer leadership roles, we are providing them with an opportunity to try new things and build their knowledge and skills.
  2. Several self-assessments exist to provide direct feedback about a student employee’s strengths. One example is StrengthsQuest, which is closely related to the work Dr. Lopez uses in his article, although other self-assessments can provide similarly helpful information. Consider offering a training workshop, or incorporating this into an existing staff meeting.

Final Thoughts

In general, students (and professional) employees are better off when they capitalize on their areas of strength for several reasons. First, it helps them sort through what is a good fit and what is not. Second, it fosters a collaborative spirit by thinking about how you can contribute to a team, rather than what you can’t do. Third, it helps them be more productive by doing what comes naturally, rather than by trying to do something outside of their natural talents.

To make student employment roles “good jobs” we can strive to give every student the opportunity to discover their strengths and then apply them to the right opportunities at work and in their life in general. According to Shane Lopez, by doing this we can “help students learn a set of life skills needed to make their hopes and dreams come true.”

So Your Student Employee is Graduating…

As graduation approaches, many units are getting ready to send off their most senior student employees. To help students close-out their experience, and to help you manage the process, here are a few recommendations for a smooth student employee exit experience.

exit right

An Exit Check-list

Take care of the basic logistical pieces that will create clarity for the student and ensure the security of your office.

  • Identify the student’s official last day of work
  • Remove access to office, building, or other systems on the employee’s last day
  • Collect name tag
  • Remove from rosters, email lists, shift-scheduling system, etc.
  • Submit HRA termination request

Per the Student Employment Policy 10.10, student employees may continue working through the last day of final examinations of the academic session following graduation. Students who graduate spring semester may continue working through the end of summer term. It is at the supervisor’s discretion whether to extend a student employee’s work beyond graduation. Be clear with graduating student employees about your needs as well as their interests and availability to determine their last day of work.

You can access the termination spreadsheet online, and then submit your request through HRA.

thank you type

Communication and Recognition

Send a message, or schedule a meeting, with stakeholders who are most directly affected by the student employee’s departure. This communication can serve a dual purpose – to announce the upcoming change, and to recognize and share appreciation for the employee’s past achievements.

Other ways to recognize graduating students might include a hand-written note of appreciation, or offering to write recommendation letters or serve as a reference. Although not required, some supervisors may choose to get a small gift (like the student’s favorite candy) or take the student to lunch on their last day.

exit interview_graduated

Exit Interview and Reflection

For many students, their employment is a significant involvement experience. Provide closure with your students by holding an exit interview or reflection conversation with them. Possible discussion points might include:

  • What have been your favorite, or positive experiences?
  • What have been your challenging, or negative experiences?
  • How would you describe your interactions with peers, supervisor, other staff, customers?
  • What are your plans after graduation?
  • How did your employment help you prepare for those plans?
  • What other feedback would you like to share?

While not required, this type of conversation may help graduating students clarify their thoughts and feelings about leaving not just their employment role, but the university in general. It may also provide useful feedback for you as a supervisor.

Other Ideas?

What other methods have you used for graduating student employees? Please share your go-to exit strategies using the comment box below!

Spring Focus Group Meetings

As we near the end of Phase One of our Student Employment Experience (SEE), we will host focus groups with student employees to to gather their feedback and general impressions of the past year. We will also host focus groups with student employees who have not been part of Phase One, to see if any noticeable differences exist between the two groups. Below is an overview of that schedule and process.

Who’s Coming to Focus Groups?

For SEE Phase One units, we solicited recommendations of students to invite to focus groups. Based on those recommendations, we invited nearly 70 student employees from 13 different units. Of those, 26 students signed up to attend a focus group, which is nearly 40% participation.

For all other units, we pulled a list of current student employees in the Office of Student Life. From that we generated a random selection of student employees across all other units, and invited just over 900 student employees. Of those, 72 signed up to attend, which is nearly 8%. We planned for 45 attendees, so while this response represents a smaller percentage of attendees based on invitations, it certainly exceeded our initial expectations for response!

thought bubble of people

Focus Group Agenda

Six focus group meetings will be held between March 30 and April 15 – three with Phase One students and three with students who have not experienced Phase One. We will collect a combination of written and verbal feedback from attendees.

The written feedback will ask for basic demographics (for example, where they work, how long they’ve been employed, key responsibilities of your role), as well as information about learning experiences (for example, training attended, conversations with supervisors).

The verbal feedback will include a set of questions for all attendees to discuss and share. Students will be asked to articulate what they have learned through their student employment role, how they learned those things, and whether they will use those things in other areas of their life (for example, classes or career).

opinion bubble stick people

You’ve Got Their Responses, Now What?

The Student Life HR team will compile the information collected from the focus groups, and look for common themes among student responses. This will be a similar process to what was used to compile OSU GROW conversation themes in autumn semester. Focus group results will be shared with Phase One supervisors as well as other stakeholders across Student Life.

Not since the 2010 Student Employee Survey has Student Life reached out to student employees across so many units to gather feedback about their experience. It should be noted however that these two methods – survey and focus groups – will generate different types of information. Within the context of the Student Employment Experience, we are especially excited to hear directly from students about what they are learning in their jobs.

The feedback from focus groups has many potential uses. For example, it will be one measure of the success of Phase One in supporting learning for student employees. It may be useful to use in hiring materials, to share specific workplace outcomes with interested candidates as a recruitment tool. It may also help direct future training efforts, both within units and across Student Life.


For more information, or with questions about the focus group process, please contact Jen Pelletier.

National Student Employment Week

Make plans now to celebrate your student employees during National Student Employment Week, April 12-18, 2015!

Promoted by the National Student Employment Association (NSEA), the second week in April is historically National Student Employment Week – a chance to recognize our student employees for their contributions throughout the year. Check out the resources below – through Student Life and through NSEA – to recognize your student employees next month.


Student Employee Recognition Event – April 14

Student employees and supervisors in all SEE: Phase One units are invited to a Student Employee Recognition Event on Tuesday, April 14 at 2:00-3:30pm in Ohio Union Great Hall Meeting Rooms. An invitation email will be sent soon with full details. Save the date and make plans to stop by for food, games, door prizes, and special recognition for graduating seniors!


Resources from NSEA

Looking for program ideas for student recognition? Here are a few highlights from the NSEA website:

  • Write a note or send an email to your student employees to share your appreciation for their work
  • Decorate your office door or bulletin board with posters, photos, etc. expressing appreciation for student employees
  • Arrange for professional staff to “reverse” job-shadow – let them partner with a student employee during a shift to see what their work is all about
  • Create a “graffiti board” where student employees can share comments about their experience – what’s the best part about working here, what have you learned, etc?
  • Connect student employment to future careers by offering to write a recommendation letter or sharing career-related resources (for example, Buckeye OnPACE, or Career Counseling and Support Services)


Star Bucks Program

Student Life Human Resources offers “Star Bucks” to recognize the outstanding work of all employees – students and professionals. Supervisors may request “Star Bucks” for employees who have gone above-and-beyond the normal call of duty. Maybe you have a student employee who…

  • Regularly demonstrates strong leadership among their peers, with or without a formal title/ role
  • Assisted with a special project for your unit
  • Created an innovative program/ practice to make work easier or more efficient
  • Does something else that is truly extraordinary for your team

Recipients of “Star Bucks” receive money deposited to their Buck-ID or paycheck. Once applicable taxes have been applied, the net value is approximately $25. To request “Star Bucks,” supervisors must pick up a form in 750 Lincoln Tower during regular business hours and document the specific reason for this special recognition.


Leadership Awards Celebration – April 10

As part of this year’s annual Leadership Awards Celebration on April 10, ten student employees will be recognized with the Student Life Student Employee Award. This year’s recipients represent six different units:

  • Facility Management
  • Neighborhood Services and Collaboration
  • Recreational Sports
  • Residence Life
  • Student Health Services
  • Student Wellness Center

Although not part of National Student Employment Week, we are very excited to recognize the extraordinary work of these students. Many thanks to the supervisors in these units, and several others, who submitted nominations for their students!


Other Ideas?

Do you have other ways that you share recognition with your student employees? Use the comment box to share ideas and practices with fellow supervisors!