One of the most common campus positions available to undergraduates is the role of an office or administrative assistant. Although a wide variety of students, from engineers to English majors, serve in these roles during their time at Hopkins, many people don’t realize how valuable this kind of experience can be for developing professional skills.
Paul Binkley, the Director of Strategic Career Development at the Career Center, said that outside employers expect all their employees, including undergraduate summer interns, to have baseline professional skills. A campus administrative position is one of the best ways to acquire these skills before your first internship.
“Employers want to know that new employees will come into their companies with a professional demeanor and attitude, but that doesn’t mean they will automatically understand why your campus administrative job was a professional experience,” Binkley said. “Students need to show their employer what they did and what they accomplished for employers to understand how the experience was professional.”
Binkley noted that student administrative workers often perform the same duties as full-time administrative staff members.
“On a granular level, this job will teach students phone etiquette, customer service, managing multiple demands simultaneously (like answering phones, addressing individual customers, and completing administrative tasks), communicating information clearly, and processing information quickly,” he said.
Binkley said that while student administrative workers should focus on the immediate demands of their job first and foremost, they should focus on developing their professional communication skills in all forms.
“Developing the ability to communicate clearly and concisely is one of the most important skills to master, in any line of work. This relates to all kinds of written and oral communication from short post-it notes up to detailed presentations to the Board of Trustees,” he said.
Besides the tangible transferrable skills that you could acquire from administrative work, you’ll also realize that answering the phone isn’t as simple as you think it is. You may make mistakes sometimes – but, according to Binkley, it’s ok as long as you learn from them.
“The only time someone fails is when they don’t learn from their mistakes,” he said. “School is the absolute perfect place to be making mistakes—we don’t go to school because we know how to do everything already. Student employment positions in general are an opportunity to recognize mistakes and learn from them.”
You can apply to open campus office assistant positions, including a few summer positions, on the Job Search Portal today! Also, be sure to take advantage of all the resources the Career Center has to offer. Look for their tools on Blackboard and browse job/internship postings, sign up for interview opportunities with outside companies, and RSVP for career development events on Handshake.