This article goes out to all of the student assistants out there from a frazzled staff member somewhat tired of training you.
You are awesome people, brilliant and capable. We hired you because we have faith in that. It is now, however, your responsibility to prove our faith well placed. We know you don’t know everything, but you are capable of learning (you are in college after all) and we expect as much from you.
First, let’s talk about dress. If I showed up in public, let alone at work in some of what student assistants wear, I would get crucified by the media, the internet, and my boss. Are you really incapable of putting in a bit of time and effort into looking professional? You set the tone now for all of your future professional endeavors and at times it does not look like a very positive tone. My suggested standard for a student assistant (though work with your office dress code) is a business casual minimum. There are a few reasons for this. One is confidence in yourself. If you look good, you feel good. If you feel good, you perform well. Good performance is always a plus, both for the office as well as yourself. You are building your network even now and you want that network to have a positive view of you. On top of that, you are building the brand of your office. Imagine if the dean or some other higher ranking administrator visits and they see you there in shorts and a t-shirt as opposed to something more professional. Which one do you think sends a more positive message, both for yourself as well as for your office. If it takes you more than a split second to answer that or if you even had to think about it, please don’t let the door smack you on the way out. All of this adds to something more positive for you in the long run. An office seen in a more positive light will carry more weight when it showers you with praise.
Ok, now that dress is covered, how about those emails. You are now in an academic and professional setting. Hopefully it has been shared with you the importance of appropriately written and addressed emails, but if not please take it into account. Imagine you are emailing a professor to deal with a grade issue. Are you going to email him and say “Hey man, let’s chat bout this.” or would you take the time to compose a well worded and written piece, opening by addressing this individual by their appropriate title (dean, professor, dr, etc). Don’t let the details destroy you. This particular aspect should follow you in any email setting, academic, professional, or otherwise. I cannot tell you how much it annoys me to get emails from guys wanting to join a fraternity who call me man or cannot take the time to compose a proper email. That in no way demonstrates an appreciation for the hard work I have put in or any respect for the fraternal community.
Then there is the phone. This is an intimidating and troubling thing for many people. Today we are far more comfortable to shoot a quick text or email than answer a phone, but it has to be done. Answering a phone should not be a challenge and it is a skill that can carry you far. Answering a phone for an office should always include a few things: your office, name, and offer to help. When you call out or leave a message these should be included as well. And always, ALWAYS remember to speak slowly and deliberately. Calling guys who mumble on the phone or an office where they speak too quickly for me to even pick up the words they are saying leaves me in a position of asking “what” or having a bad impression of the office.
Student Assistants, you are often times the front lines of our offices. We trust you to represent us well. We understand that many of you are new and learning (it is always heartbreaking to loose that person who has been there for three years) and we want that. We live for that. But we also hold you to a different standard than other students. We have trusted you to serve in our office beside us. Please demonstrate you deserve that right.
Be aware as well, my complaining about this on a public blog is the least professional way of doing so. This is not meant and is rarely used for professional matters, just my random rant for it. I have and do work with some excellent Student Assistants. I only hope that if someone is looking to take a position as a Student Assistant, they take some of these thoughts into consideration.