Being hired back as a student staff member in housing, says a lot about the person you are. The simple desire, on your part, to return to the position is evidence to your commitment to success. (After all, we all know you’re not in it for the money!) What’s more important though is that your supervisors saw in you the ability to continue to work toward success, the opportunity for personal growth and the skills and talents you possess that can positively impact the campus community.
But wait…there’s more!
Along with returning as a RA on your college campus comes an increased level or responsibility from what you had as a new staff member. Not only will you continue to be a role model to your residents, you will be a role model and mentor to your fellow staff members. Just as how you handle yourself on and off campus has been under the constant scrutiny of your residents this year, your attitude and commitment to residential life will now be under scrutiny from the new staff members. You may not feel it, or notice it, but they are watching, learning, and following in your footsteps.
“What’s the big deal? I did well enough to get hired again!”
It’s easy to become complacent with one’s job performance and to assume that it was that performance that encouraged professional staff to invite you back. The reality is, however, that just as new RAs were hired for their potential, returning RAs are often hired for their potential to improve on what they’ve already done well, and change the weaker areas of performance. We all have those little errors along the way that we wish we had a chance to go back and fix; those tiny issues we are not as proud of as the overall job we did. More importantly, in most cases, you’re not the only one who is aware of those little blemishes on your performance record. Your professional staff are typically well aware of the areas you need to improve, and committed to helping you in those areas so you can succeed personally and help guide your fellow staff.
Regarding those fellow staff members; remember the last time you made a photocopy? Have you ever had to take that copy and make a copy of it because you lost the original? Even if you haven’t had that experience, I am sure you can see where I am going with this: each time you recreate something, it loses some of its sharpness, some of the very definition that made it valuable in the first place. As this past year of being on staff has gone by, I am certain that you have found corners to cut, deadlines to “fudge,” or easy ways out of some of the job requirements. Those shortcuts are exactly what the new staff that are watching you so closely are going to pick up on. When that happens, they may well try to take some of their own additional shortcuts, and suddenly more and more of the necessary aspects of the RA job become less and less important. The sharpness of our community development and department as a whole could slowly get lost.
“What works for you, may not work for someone else.”
You may be thinking that your system worked well for you and it’s ok if these new staff members take on some of the “time savers” you’ve used over the course of the past year. In reality, those “time savers” and “shortcuts” may have worked for you and your style with your supervisor in the specific situations you experienced this year, but for someone else with different levels of awareness, different strengths in a different situation the same results may not be met. Every person and every situation is different, and assuming anything else could get your new RAs (and you) started off in the wrong direction. Another translation of the above statement could be, “What worked for you last time, may not work again.” By the very nature of human interaction, we know that even given the same events involving the same people, the outcome often is not the same. Each situation must be assessed as it develops and responded to appropriately.
“If you keep on doing the same thing you’ve always done, you’ll keep on getting the same results you’ve always gotten.”
Just about all returning staff members have had successful floor programs and interactions. There are many events, conversations and responses we’d all like to replicate, but it is a stark reality that simply cannot happen. If we keep trying to replicate the past, presenting the same programs and treating and responding to residents in the same way, the same problems will arise that have in the past.
You were RE-HIRED for your potential
As a returning staff member you clearly have experience and skills that will carry you into the upcoming school year. You could sit back and ride out the year, complacent and sure that what you did in the past will serve you completely in the future…or you could work just as hard -even harder- than you have in the past year, and propel yourself forward to excellence. Regardless of your choice, new staff members will take note and may conduct themselves similarly. The choice is yours. This is your opportunity to set the tone.
Submitted by Michael Wilde, Area Director, Minnesota State University Moorhead