Standing Your Ground!

I’m sure most of you are realizing that in the world of Student Affairs, there is a large demand for personal commitment to the profession. This includes all the heart and passion you can put into the numerous rolls there are to be held…on the clock, off the clock, regular hours and not so regular hours. There are often some random situations that come up and can completely change your schedule during the day or even the entire week! One of the major issues my cohort (or classmates), even as second years, is struggling with is time management in relation to our Graduate Research Assistant (GRA) positions. Many of my classmates often feel that they are obligated to attend certain events (early mornings, late evenings and weekends) and work well over their 20 hours a week limit. This has had an effect on our school work and increased our stress levels. While the profession does call for extended hours because of the unpredictable schedules of student, one thing to keep in mind while you are attending graduate school is that you are still a student first!!!! This is what we tell our student workers and this is what we should expect from ourselves and from our supervisors. 

From what I’ve heard from other graduate programs, this is not specific to my university. I have come to the conclusion that there are two issues in why this occurs. First, supervisors are overworking their GRAs and perhaps not allocating their GRA’s time properly. They may need to re-examine the job responsibilities if they require more than 20 hours of work each week. Second, the issue could be with the GRA for not speaking up to let their supervisor know about their workload. If this issue does arise, it is important to get up the courage to confront your supervisor in a professional manner to let them know your point of view and share. Often, you will be the one responsible for keeping track of your hours. So, simply letting them know you are getting close for the week may be enough to let them know your limits. In addition, you should plan ahead for your classwork and have a relatively good idea of when you will need to study and for how long you will need. Learning time management all over again is necessary in a new environment. If something comes up and your supervisor asks you to stay late or attend an event, let them know that you have school work scheduled and that it is a priority for you. They should be more understanding or be flexible in having you stay after hours instead of work during the day.

For many programs the GRAs are treated like professional staff and you are expected to produce professional work. It is your responsibility to manage the tasks you have been delegated and prioritize them. During your first year in a role it may take some time to get used to some of the tasks, but once you are comfortable with them, tasks become natural. Eventually, you may want to look over your tasks and see if you would be able to delegate some to available student workers or fellow staff members, or student leaders. Also, for your own development, you can ask your supervisor for experience in an area you would like to grow in example supervising, judicial, etc.

One other thing you could do to prepare for this would be asking these questions during your search and interview process. Fortunately, I had a bit of a heads up in this field while looking for an assistantship and was able to work in an office that keeps me relatively close to the 20 hours a week. My supervisor has been very understanding with my hours and school work. However, when it comes to working with the students, I find it to be more tempting to stay late. This is mostly because they are the reason I am in this profession. This is where I kick in my prioritizing skills! Depending on the situation, sometimes I work with the students a little more and sometimes I let them know that I really do need to go and schedule a meeting to follow up with them. Overall, I feel that simply being aware that it’s likely to get overworked is a good thing to know going into a GRA role in Student Affairs. I hope these tips will help you with your plan!

Best of Luck!

~Jenni with an “I”

P.S. There is a need for some overtime in different departments that require accumulated time for breaks so do keep this in mind unless you want to work the break :-)

Student Affairs - the First Years

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