You are graduating and you have a job. You are not coming back as an RA. You have already been rehired for next year. You were not rehired and you are still angry about it. Whatever your situation, you may be tempted to slide by at the end of the year. Especially when it comes to closing the halls and doing room checks. After all, this is not why you became an RA and what can they really do to you?
Too many times at the end of the year I have seen staff members throw away a 1 – 3 year working relationship because they were too busy, stressed, lazy or “done” to finish their job. Often you have already been paid, and staff say after all, what can they really do to me? Resist the urge to be one of these staff members. Here are a few reasons why:
It’s the right things to do
By becoming an RA, you gave your word that you would be a staff member from August through May. Most of you probably signed a contract but even if you did not by taking a salary and by benefiting from training, supervision and learning on the job you have not only committed to do this job, but you have benefited from having it.
How do you want to be remembered? As someone who followed through to the end or as someone who only looked out for number one? Oftentimes in the crush of problems we choose short-term solutions that have long-term consequences. You have worked hard all year to be a good staff member. Do you want to throw that all away by skipping out early? When residence life staff think back to this year on staff what do you want them to say about you?
The work you have to do for check out is not a surprise. You had to be here early to check people in, every break you are often the last to leave and the first to return. Besides that your supervisor has most likely informed you well in advance about when you can leave. Last minutes problems and plans can and should be avoided.
Your staff team needs you
From the first moment of training, you began working with a group of people. Over time this group formed a team and for many of you, it became like a second family. You developed trust; you were there for each other during late nights, crisis, and both professional and personal problems. Think of all the times your staff has been there for you. Now imagine it is 3 am and you need back up and your fellow staff leaves you hanging. It doesn’t feel good does it? Well that is what you will be doing to your staff if you don’t do your portion of the work. It is just as important as all the other things were during the year. If you don’t do your part, your staff members will have to pick up the slack. Failing to do your part at the end of the year can break all that trust that you built.
You don’t want double standards
As a staff member you have been trying to help your students understand the concepts of community, and that each and every one of them has a responsibility to make the community work. You have encouraged them to come to floor meetings, take ownership of their actions and contribute to floor activities. If you believe what you have been teaching them, now is the time to do the same yourself.
When residents leave the bathroom or the hallway a mess and expect you to clean it up for them it can be a very frustrating and demoralizing incident. In the same way if you leave your work of room checks, or other end of the year tasks for others to do, you are acting like those residents whom frustrated you throughout the year.
Believe it or not, at some point you will need a reference
If you cannot do it for the sake of others, then do it for yourself. You may think you are done with residence life forever. The end of the year often brings strong feelings of burnout and tunnel vision. You only start to see the things that aggravate you about this job and you are looking forward to being done with it. You may be graduating and have a job all lined up, so your RA job no longer matters on your resume or as a reference.
You never know what life will hold. I have had reference calls as long as 7 years after someone worked as an RA. You may at some point apply for an RD job to pay for graduate or doctoral work and you will put down the RA job. The school wants to talk to someone who knew you as an RA. For some unforeseen reason you were asked to leave your job and now you need a different reference. You worked in business and now are moving to a more person-centered position. They want to talk to someone who can talk about your skills with people. You cannot predict the future and you may need a good reference in the future. Don’t jeopardize it by ending the year poorly, it will stay with you for longer than you realize.
Most staff don’t even need to read this article, they are highly motivated and despite the many obstacles that come their way they finish the year with a flourish. But it only takes a few to take an already stressful time and create a massive headache for everyone. So hang in there and finish strong, you will be remembered for it.
Submitted by April Herring, Trainer, Group Works