How to work in a leadership role as a student

Working for university administration proves your valuable skills in a leadership position

August 4 2016

Increasingly, students are looking to earn money while they are completing their studies to alleviate some of their post-graduation student loan debt. There are positions in institutions that have long been student jobs – leaders in students’ unions, for example. But now, careers centres are not waiting until students have become alumni to connect them with employment opportunities. Working while at university is valuable for both the student and the institution.

As a student, the value of holding a leadership position at your institution is evident: networking opportunities, résumé-building, and sometimes you are even bestowed with your own office or a coveted phone extension. How many of your friends can say that they have their own extension? Having been a student who worked as a coordinator of a new programme that was managed by the Student Life office, I have had first-hand experience working in a leadership position while being a full-time student.

More and more programming is being delivered by students in leadership positions. For most university staff members, it has been a handful of years since they were students themselves (often at other institutions), leaving them out of touch with the lifelines of the social media-savvy students of today: Snapchat and Yik Yak. One thing that the administration can do to keep themselves relevant is to support initiatives developed by student employees who are a part of the demographic they are trying to reach.

I have found that as a student, there can be a power struggle between students and the staff to whom they are reporting. Universities aren’t yet at a point where they have embraced the fresh minds and naivety of students. Our unjaded innocence can, and in my experience has, allowed administration to think beyond running programmes in a traditional way citing the age-old adage that “it has always been done that way” or “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

So what is the best way to find one of these plum roles? As a student who worked for four out of my five years at university, I have some advice:

Returning students: look for positions in your institution and apply for them. In addition to paid jobs, many universities offer leadership programmes that students can complete at a minimal cost that will help you to hone the skills you already have and also equip you with new ones. These are great ways to bolster your résumé, giving you that extra edge that can put you ahead of your fellow classmates. They will also help you to build connections with the community at your institution.

New students: I suggest using social media or asking an upper-year student to discover what opportunities are available. Often, this information isn't found on recruitment websites and is not heavily explored in conversations with admissions staff. Speaking with students will give you tips on things you can start doing now to build your skill set and prepare yourself for a life as a leader.

It’s up to you to go out into the world and make room for yourself, market yourself, and prove that you are valuable. Developing these marketable skills through student leadership (even better if they’re paid positions) is a great way to do just that!

Amanda is in her fifth year at Laurentian University, Canada, where she is pursuing a bachelor of education after having completed a bachelor of arts in literature and French as a second language.

Reader's comments (1)

My only problem that I'm too shy. I have not enough skills to say someone what to do. Does anybody know related courses or, like, training tutorials?

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