The other side of the desk
This week, my fellow blogger Mikey shined light on the big ass green whale. Read it if you haven’t already, and I’ll share his attempt to summarize: Many more people here than will admit (to various degrees) struggle financially.
It’s something we won’t/can’t/don’t talk about though half of us receive some sort of aid. I’d like to shine my own light on one particular aspect of that experience—the campus job.
Despite sometimes wishing I could use those couple hours every week to study or sleep (usually sleep), I absolutely love my job. It has been a worthwhile experience so far— I’m confident at least that I, unlike some other people of my generation, know how to break down a box.
More important, I have learned a thing or two working in an office where I interact with students and watch other people interact with students. These may sound obvious. And if they do, that’s wonderful. However, experience has shown that they aren’t entirely self-evident.
- First impressions count: It’s easy to think that on a campus this large the people working at front desks don’t remember names and faces. But that’s just not true. If you’re difficult, we remember. Alternatively, if you’re nice and easygoing, we also remember.
- You never know who is within earshot of your conversation: If you’re giving attitude to the person at the front desk, whether it’s a student or not, it is very possible that whomever you’re hoping to speak with can hear.
- Don’t be shocked or annoyed if you can’t see an administrator without an appointment, especially if you come by to see someone and it’s not office hours. And if you can’t make office hours because of class, email to set up a separate appointment, and most people will make time to see you.
- Don’t shoot the messenger: It’s just as pointless to scream at the person at the front desk for bureaucracy as it is to scream at a waiter for poorly prepared food. It’s not their fault, and often it’s a fellow student who works 10 hours a week and doesn’t hold any sway over policy. If a rule strikes you as ridiculous or unfair, take it up with someone who can actually take the action to change it.
- Make sure you exhaust all available resources before you get frustrated: Truthfully, information can be hard to find at Columbia. But most of the answers to the questions I’m asked, though I don’t mind answering them, are available online or in a handbook.
- Keep in mind that the typical student’s schedule is not the same as an office schedule: We have class at weird hours, we stay up late, and there’s often little separation between our school and private lives. But that’s not how most of the professional world works. Not everyone can answer their email at 3 a.m.
- In my experience administrators really do want to help you: Even when it seems like the system’s stacked against you, the person on the other side is still ready and willing to help you.
Nathalie Barton is a junior in Columbia College. In addition to learning how to break down boxes, she’s proud to say that she knows how to do a mail merge after two years of working in a campus job.
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