Student employees get more than a paycheck: Professional experience increases appeal to recruiters
In many departments across University of Houston-Clear Lake, student employees are completing an array of administrative or research tasks, collaborating with faculty and staff, reinforcing the skills they’re learning in the classroom, and finding out they can do things they never realized they could do.
Students can apply for jobs in nearly any unit on campus, including the Office of the President, the Bayou Theater, Hunter Residence Hall, in all the Colleges, or as research assistants for professors. UH-Clear Lake’s Office of Human Resources reports that there are over 600 student employees on campus.
“In OSA, we try to help students with student life. We’ll do anything we can to help make life easier, especially for students who need things out of their budget,” he said. “I help the Dean of Students manage the front desk. We answer questions, give people directions, and give our knowledge about the campus.”
Ramos said although there were many openings for student workers across campus, he applied for this one in particular for a reason. “I transferred here from Galveston Community College and while I was there, I met (Student Advocate and Associate Director of the Office of Student Advocacy) LaToya Mills,” he said. “She was my counselor when I was there and I wanted to continue working with her. She’s my mentor; she gives me a lot of help and I’m grateful to have her and gain as much knowledge as I can from her.”
Since his career goal is to become a teacher, Ramos said he felt this work experience was the right fit. “This job has taught me new ways to talk to people,” he said. “Some people are cool, but some people are stressed out or anxious because they’re trying to find their way around, or because they have a problem and they need to find out who can help them. We are the first contact for people when they come in, and it’s our job to listen to them and point them in the right direction.”
As a future teacher, he said these were the traits he would need most when talking with his own students in the classroom he hopes to have upon graduation.
“I had an experience in elementary school with a teacher who put in a lot more effort with me than with the others,” he said. “I needed the extra help. I want to pass that on. I want to be that teacher for someone. There are teachers who go above and beyond to help their students and I want to help my students succeed so they can reach their goals.”
He said his job was doing more than just enhancing his ability to communicate with others. “If I did not have this job, I could not stay in school,” he said. “I live in Galveston, so going to work and school in the same place helps me a lot. I can just leave class and go right to work, instead of having to drive back to Galveston to work.”
The support he receives, Ramos said, is the reason he's able to manage everything.
“It’s hard to work and be in school,” he said. “But with the help of (Assistant Dean of Students and Office of Student Advocacy Director) Kristi Randolph Simon and Dr. Mills, I can do it because they are there for me and they work with me.”
Randolph Simon said that there were eight student employees in the Dean of Students Office and Office of Student Advocacy, and her goal was to ensure that professional development was a significant part of their experience.
“Our student employees are cross-trained to support services provided by the Dean of Students Office, Office of Student Advocacy, the Hawk Pantry, and the Houston Food Bank free grocery distributions,” she said. “What better way to support students than to provide both work experience and financial compensation.”
Since student employees would support both DOS and OSA, Randolph Simon said both departments partnered in the student hiring process. “We share with student applicants the expectation that they become leaders,” she said. “We assign students to serve as lead on special projects and tasks in order to develop soft skills such as problem solving, effective communication and teamwork. It’s not only about the work students do to help the staff, it’s about what we can do to upskill our students so they can be successful leaders in their careers.”
Ramos said his experience in leadership was helping him get an inside view of how things got done. “Now I’m learning how much work there is in making things work the right way,” he said.
The U.S. Department of Education reports that 40% of full-time college students and over 80% of part-time students are employed, working at least 20 hours a week, to help pay for living and college expenses. The report adds that students who are able to balance work and school may go on to have higher earnings after graduation because they have a more developed resume and stronger social network.