Five Key Points to Remember

  1. As a student employee, you represent the school. You’re a partner with faculty, staff and other student workers.
  2. The people you provide service to such as other students, parents, visitors, faculty, staff, and co-workers all depend on you to do the very best job you can every day.
  3. The skills and experience you gain will transfer to future employment settings, no matter what your current position is.
  4. Your employer, Carleton College, has a vested interest in your success. Your supervisor and others around you can offer valuable resources to help you do your job. Never hesitate to ask a question.
  5. Carleton considers its student employees vital to the success of the college.

General Work Strategies

There are some key points to improve job performance (and supervisor satisfaction) no matter whether you work in Dining Services, an academic department, or the Dean’s Office.

1. Show Up for Work on Time

Your coworkers depend on you arriving on time and ready to work. Please be prompt to all shifts and let your supervisor know if you are running late.

2. Keep Your Work Area Clean

It’s likely your table, tools, chair, etc. are all part of a shared work space. Taking a few minutes at the end of your shift to clean up will be appreciated by everyone.

3. Have Interest and Energy in your Work

While it may not be your passion, your student job is still important and supports the lifeblood of this campus. Assisting others, contributing to the positive energy of the office, and being proactive results in promotions, increased responsibility, and a sense of belonging and community.

4. Demonstrate Responsibility and Initiative

Your supervisor values your ability to work hard and keep things going. Whether the task is as small as getting the mail or as big as giving campus tours, take every assignment seriously and give it your best.

5. Communicate with Your Supervisor

If you know that you are going to have a rough week in classes, talk to your supervisor about it and see if you can negotiate an adjusted work schedule. If you are having a tough time, your supervisor can often assist you.

Likewise, keep an honest conversation going about work – the workload, how things are handled, etc. If you have a complaint or concern, let him/her know. If you have a compliment about the office, share that too! Actively participate in your evaluations.

6. Troubles on the Job

If you are having problems with your job, first talk to your supervisor about it. 99% of issues can be resolved at that level. If the issue or concern cannot be resolved there, talk to his/her supervisor.


1. Career Development and Your Work Experiences at Carleton

A good liberal arts education at Carleton can strengthen or develop many skills. Employers are looking for written and oral communication skills and analysis and problem-solving skills, which you certainly will use in your course work at Carleton. There are additional ways to develop and strengthen marketable skills at Carleton. Student employment can round out your educational experience by providing opportunities to develop and use not only communication and problem-solving skills, but also interpersonal, teamwork and computer skills which are so valued in today’s workplace.

Some students realize in their senior year at Carleton that they should have been paying attention to more than their grade point average. It can be a rude awakening to realize that employers are most interested in evidence that you will be a good worker in their organization. There is no proven correlation between high grades and success as a worker. Employers are looking on resumes and asking in interviews for evidence of skills and behaviors that show that students are good workers. What better way is there to demonstrate this than through experience! By the time you are a Carleton senior, evidence of experience listed on your resume will be the result of student employment, summer jobs, internships, leadership and volunteer experiences.

Student employment at Carleton can provide especially valuable skills and confidence-building opportunities. What is so special about Carleton College as an employer? It’s what makes Carleton so special as a learning community. Everyone who chooses to work at Carleton, staff and faculty, cares about helping you learn what you need to know to develop your skills while you are at Carleton. Everyone is a potential teacher, including your student employment supervisor.

One aspect of joining a new community, including a learning community like Carleton, is that, in the beginning, the work assignments available to you might be not be directly related to your interests. Some of these jobs are essential to keeping Carleton running smoothly and every worker is valued as part of the Carleton community for contributing to the good of the community. Look at these assignments as great ways to develop evidence of a good work ethic and valued characteristics such as flexibility, punctuality, follow-through, and teamwork skills. Supervisors can provide good references and support, no matter what the job.

It is always possible to talk with your supervisor about whether there may be opportunities for increasing responsibility and developing new competencies. Of course, it is important to follow through and honor your student employment work assignment, and complete the year, even if you have mastered all there is to learn. In your spring term, you may initiate and explore additional opportunities with your current work site or look elsewhere on campus.

In addition to gaining a good foundation of solid work habits and contributing to the Carleton community, you will know a lot more about yourself, your strengths and interests, especially if you have sought out feedback from your supervisor and visited the Career Center. This office has career interest inventories, career exploration information and career counseling available to all students. You can make an appointment to go over what you have learned so far and to work on a career development plan for the following years.

So there is much to learn at Carleton both inside and outside of the classroom! Take advantage of these career development resources, including faculty and staff and learn valuable skills and competencies. You may develop close, supportive and ongoing connections with your work supervisors as well as your professors. And, you will develop confidence in your ability to become a valued member of a work group after you graduate from Carleton and join the extensive community of Carleton alums contributing their talents in careers throughout the world.

2. Learning Occurs in More Places than Just the Classroom

Learning takes place in your instructor’s offices, the library, the residence halls, activities, service offices and, of course, at your work. A few of the important skills and competencies you can learn through your campus work include:

  • positive work habits such as dependability, accuracy and perseverance
  • organizational and time management skills
  • positive work attitudes
  • teamwork to build relationships and complete projects
  • communication skills – both speaking and writing
  • accountability and responsibility

3. One of the first and most important things that you will need to learn about is Carleton College and your work site

  • Have you ever gone to one office and found out you needed to go somewhere else?
  • Have you ever decided not to pursue a question or problem because you just didn’t know where to go and ask?
  • Have you ever had someone stop you and ask directions and you couldn’t help them?

The fact is, to become a better informed student and better informed employee, you need to know a lot about Carleton. You need to know where things are, how the school is structured and organized, and where to go for help — develop campus smarts. Research suggests that students who know how their schools work make better and more frequent use of campus programs and services, and they are more satisfied as a result.

How can you develop campus and office smarts?

  • Read all the college print and website materials that you can — the catalog, the student handbook, the Carletonian, the material your work publishes, and all the material you receive in your mailbox.
  • Read all the training material provided to you. Then read everything about the department you can — your supervisor can provide you with brochures and other material that will give you a sense of the scope of office services and history.
  • When you dig up the answer to a question, make a note of the answer and also the name of the person you asked so you’ll know what to do the next time the question comes up. People like to be asked questions; they don’t like to be asked the same question over and over.
    • HINT: Share your information discovery with other new student workers.
  • Make a list of the questions you have for your supervisor and those you work with. Then take some time to ask the questions!
  • After you are clear on the expectation of your job, make sure you let your supervisor know about the areas in which you feel you need additional training to become an effective employee.

Asking Questions

As a student employee, you need to ask questions for two reasons: for your own learning and to better help others. Keep in mind that the people you deal with, particularly from outside the Carleton community often do not know what questions to ask. So, in addition to being a good listener, you need to be a good questioner.

Asking questions is an art and a skill which demands thought and perception on your part. Anytime someone asks you something that could be interpreted in several different ways, avoid the temptation to give the easy, obvious answer. Instead, take time to uncover what the person really needs to know.

Observing Confidentiality

As a student employee, you might have access to sensitive records – grades, financial records, test scores, and many others. There are standards of confidentiality that apply to college staff and faculty – and student workers. In fact, the federal government even has laws that protect the privacy of many educational records.

Confidentiality is important no matter how the information is used. It doesn’t matter if you say something good or bad about a fellow student. Telling a friend that you filed Juan’s semester grades that were all As is no different from telling your friend that Michelle’s grades were all Ds.

Two important rules of confidentiality:

  1. First, keep it at work. Don’t talk about student’s or faculty’s or staff’s business to other people except those you work with, and then only if it’s related to your work.
  2. Second, be sensitive when sharing information at work. It’s sometimes easier than you think to be overheard by other students or their friends. Even when the subject itself isn’t confidential, it’s important to be careful about what you say. Make it a practice to shut the door!

The concept of confidentiality can also be broadened. You do not need to share with your entire residence floor that your work supervisor had a bad day and slammed a door. Or that the administrative assistant in your department is getting a divorce. And so on. This also goes for policy. If you have a concern about a staff person or an office decision, discuss it in the office. Do not leak it to the press or an entire class.

Confidentiality implies trust. Those that you provide service to trust that the office will keep things confidential. The people that you work with trust that what happens in the office stays in the office. Trust is a very difficult attribute to regain once you’ve lost it. So, value and respect the responsibility given to you.

Handling Difficult Situations

The most important thing to remember is this: the person you’re dealing with most likely isn’t angry with you. Most angry people are just frustrated with the situation or perhaps even angry about something that has nothing to do with the problem.

The following are effective techniques to use when you handle difficult situations:

  • Listen actively and with interest
  • Put yourself in the students place
  • Ask questions
  • Ask the student to take an action step
  • Refer the student to your supervisor when appropriate