Some things you might want to consider when coming back for your second, third or fourth year as an RA.
You probably already know that things constantly change. Of course you want to hold on to what fun you’ve had in the past, but you need to understand that each year your life and your job are going to be somewhat new. If returning to the RA job, you could have a new supervisor, new staff and new residents. This should not deter you from returning to staff, in fact it should be the opposite, and you should be excited. You will want to and should hold on to what you had that was good in the past, but don’t spend too much time reminiscing.
Make sure during training and throughout the year you take time with your staff. This is of course with the understanding that things will be new and the start will be a bit different…enjoy it. After training you won’t have another two weeks to bond together again…take advantage of it.
Try to ‘learn to help others learn’. Yes, you have been through training before but maybe there is something new you haven’t heard yet. This is a good time to share a bit of your past experiences and real life examples. This also might be a good opportunity to be the helpful returner that re-explains things. Don’t forget to pass on the slogans or lingo used in the job. Pass on that RA vernacular to newer people on staff. This will help new staff to not only feel connected with you but also it will help them learn a bit more about the position.
This might be the time to take on more responsibility. Anything from offering to help out your supervisor, your co-RA or even other RAs is just a start. You can make sure you give a helping hand to those who need help with bulletin boards or door decorations. Maybe you can give some of you time and energy to help out more in your area office. Be a little bit of a go-getter and do an additional program or help someone else out with theirs.
Consider taking on some departmental responsibilities. Ask to join a committee to work closer with the professional staff. This will give you some pretty interesting and beneficial outcomes. Through this different opportunity you will gain different perspective on how your department functions. Also, you’re a returner right…you might also be able to give some intuitive feedback because of your experience.
You are getting old! Oh, please! Yes, you are getting older and I do think it’s important to understand that you and your residents might not be as close as before. This is especially true if you are still an RA for a freshman floor/residence hall. You will keep getting older and the freshman; well they will stay the same age. Learn to laugh with and enjoy your residents, no matter their age. If you supervise a freshman floor remember what you did when you were a freshman. Think of the ‘cool’ or funny things you did and share those experiences with your freshmen.
It’s time to be really honest with yourself and others regarding your job. Last year (if it was your first) you were still learning and you maybe you made some mistakes. Just because you are returning you will not be perfect. If you make a mistake admit to it and learn, verses putting yourself down or avoiding taking responsibility. Grow personally and professionally and role model responsibility.
Put your experience aside from time to time and help others who are not so experienced by allowing them to take the lead. Provide support. Know when to lead and follow. Keep open lines of communication with your supervisor.
Spice things up a bit, in everything you do. This is your year to be more creative in all of the things you do. It is easy to repeat programs from the past year because you know they work. Of course this is fine to do but change it up, add something different or introduce a new topic. Not only will this help you out in your program collection but this will help your staff improve too. They can use your previous ideas to build on new ones and keep traditions alive while not having the program become stagnant.
Last but certainly not least, don’t forget about yourself! This is the time to remember two things; first, you’re still a person too! This means you need to make sure you are taking time off from RA stuff, go off campus to eat, take your one weekend off a month, laugh and chat with people hours on end, and go to the movies. Believe it or not, it is really important that you still take care of yourself. If you don’t, how are you going to be an effective RA if you’re sick or stressed out about the job?
Also, remember that you are still a student too! Work to maintain decent grades, so you can role model academic achievement to your residents. Don’t get too overwhelmed with the floor. Remember to go to those study sessions and have people come over and study with you. If you are in a class with a fellow RA, use each other to study and check up on each other. It works!
Remember to breath, relax and enjoy this new experience. Being a returning RA is a lot of fun and even more rewarding with every year.
Submitted by Monique Harris, Resident Advisor at Rochester Institute of Technology