I know D.W. wrote about her student workers over on The Old College Try a while back (Update: Thanks D.W. for finding the post A Marketer in Need Deserves a Student Indeed), but I can’t seem to find the post. Also Mike at HighEdWebTech even went so far as creating a Hall of Fame for retired student workers. Do you have student workers that support your web office? I sure hope so!
This seems like one of most obvious, most overlooked, and easiest way to beef up what we all lack more than even funding, time. Bottom line student workers have allowed us to do more for the Wofford’s web presence over the past few years than anything else. It has also been a ton of fun to work with them.
Update: Please be sure to check out this post and fill out our survey about Student Workers as we are doing a little research.
So take your pick. You can either watch the video, read the points below or maybe do both?
So let’s look at some of the reasons that YOU need to hire student workers.
- Untapped Resource of a variety of skills. We work at institutes of Higher Learning for crying out loud. We have an eager to learn student body of the brightest and smartest young adults in the area right at our fingertips. Granted they aren’t always perfect, but you have a range of majors and talent available if you simple look or ask.
- Low Cost. Let’s be brutally honest, student workers are cheap labor! They will work for a lot less money than a full time employee and you don’t have to worry about the extra perks of providing them insurance, retirement, vacation days, etc. Besides if one doesn’t work out you let them go and go fishing again.
- Great Real World Experience. Yes that’s right a students working for you is a great resume builder for them. They are at school to learn so why not learn skills of real world business value also?
- They GET Social Media. Are you having trouble wrapping your head around Social Media and how to use it? If your students are like mine they already spend two hours a day on Facebook and offering to pay them to spend more time… well you see where I’m going.
- They can also teach you. Just as I mentioned with Social Media there are plenty of opportunities to let them play with a new technology then teach it to you. A lot of times I’ll read about something new then my next student to come in that day I’ll say hey check out xyz and tell me what you think. Is there any value in it?
- No more 5 minute tasks. I believe that the stat says it takes 20 minutes of uninterrupted thought before you can actually focus on something. Well with emails, phone calls, bosses, twitter, needy faculty/staff, and all those other interruptions out there it can get pretty much impossible to focus on something. Train a student to do the little tasks them let them jump in and handle them. Not only do they get done and you can focus on bigger projects, but the students actually feel like they are contributing and being a part of a team.
Convinced yet? So now that I’ve convinced you to higher them let’s talk a little about strategy to make it work.
- Pay more than minimum wage. These students aren’t doing thoughtless labor like answering an occasional phone call or manning a desk. They are actually thinking and providing real value to the institution. Start them out a few extra dollars above minimum wage.
- Hire Sophomores. We hire sophomores because we get them for three years. Freshman can be a nightmare and they need that extra year to mature.
- Expect a lot. That’s right expect quality. Don’t be overexpecting because bottom line #1 priority has to be for them to get their education, but have them come up with a work schedule and stick with it. We hire ours for 10-12 hours a week. Not to much, but enough to get actual work done.
- Semester Contracts. Make sure they realize they are on a semester to semester contract. You aren’t going to get rid of a great worker, but if you have one who just isn’t reliable well they don’t need to come back next semester.
- Let them take ownership in the program. Because we have had this system running for a few years now our seniors train and work with the underclass members. The newest members get the more mundane daily tasks with the incentive of getting to do cooler projects as they learn more and one day train someone else to do the mundane tasks that they currently handle. Also this means less training by me.
- Positive Encouragement. Treat them like you want to be treated. Actually care and understand their exam schedule. Take them to lunch occasionally, thank them for their hard work regularly, and provide stimulating projects to match their skills and interests.
- Ask students who you should hire. This has been extremely helpful. When we are looking for a new member of the team now I just ask the current who they think would be the best fit for the team and most responsible. After deciding on the skill set we lack they put the feeders out and find qualified applicants. This also helps your team morale because you aren’t hiring students that can’t get along and work well together.
Working with student workers has been one of my biggest pleasures of my job as Webmaster. Working with the all-stars of tomorrow and helping mold and watch them grow into adults is truly rewarding.
So to Lara, Craig, James, Alex, Nick, Jamie, Mollie, Steven, Will, Daniel, Autumn, David, and anyone whom I might have forgot, Thank You and it’s been a pleasure. Some of you are already out in the world doing incredible things and I know the rest of you will be soon enough.
I wish you nothing but the best and I’ll always be there to help out anyway that I can.
I’d love to hear your stories of student worker success and any other tips you would offer to managing them. Please share in the comments below.