The Student Employment Experience (SEE) pursues three main goals:
- Create consistency in student employment experiences across the Office of Student Life
- Enable students to articulate what they’re learning through employment
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.”