By Lacey Oliveira, Psychology Major and

Karina Ulloa, Political Science Major

"The environment in which you

work has a lot to do with the worker

you become, and that experience

is what carries you into the rest

of your professional life."

5 Ways You Can Be a Super-visor to Your Student Employee

Lacey Oliveira, Psychology Major

The environment in which you work has a lot to do with the worker you become, and that experience is what carries you into the rest of your professional life.

By working at a university, you are working in an environment full of potential. Working on campus should be both fun and challenging. Going into my third year, I’ve done shift work and office work here at UC Merced. I also work off campus. In my experience, there is one thing that separates the good from the bad: communication.

Communication is key, and it’s a two-way street. But in the employer-employee relationship, the power balance favors the employer. So, if you’re in a position where you supervise students, I have five tips for how good communication can help you maximize both the value you get from your student workers and the value they get from their work experiences with you.

#1: Have an Open-Door Policy, and Explain It

I think most supervisors would say they have an open-door policy, but I don’t know many students who would agree. When you’re a student and you work under the watchful eye of management, you might feel intimidated. When a supervisor tells me they have an open-door policy, I always ask what that means. Can I come to you with questions as they come up, or do you prefer that I write them all down to present at one time? Do you mean “open door” as in I can drop by at any time, or do you prefer I make an appointment or communicate by email? Knowing what open communication means to you helps me to overcome my fear of being a bother.

#2: Favoritism is a Disease, and You Have the Cure

Hear me out here. I’m not saying you aren’t equitable in how you treat employees. I’m suggesting that you pay attention to how your behavior toward your staff is perceived by others. I’ve only had one job where student workers didn’t complain about unfair treatment. The difference was transparency. This means your employees know what’s going on and why. Try it.

#3: Offer Feedback, and Follow Up

If you want to see growth in your student worker, you have to feed it. That means you assign work, you assess the work and you follow up on it. Let your student workers know what they did well and what needs improvement. Be consistent and you’ll see performance improve. We want to do well, and we want to provide value. But we need to know from you what that looks like.

#4: Understand that We’re Students First

I know that you as a supervisor juggle a lot — and the academic calendar might not be your top priority. But there are times — like midterms and finals — when our work might need to take a back seat to our studies. We might not say anything because we don’t want you thinking we’re flakes, but if you start the conversation by asking about our classes or whether we need extra time to study in the coming weeks, we might be brave enough to tell you the truth. Communication and respect are key for this to be handled properly.

#5: Challenge Us, and Don't Stop

You never know someone’s capacity for growth until you stretch their limits. My best job experiences have been when supervisors have trusted me with tasks beyond my job description or given me tight deadlines. I haven’t always succeeded, but I have discovered hidden strengths and weaknesses.

"we want to do well, and we want to provide value. but we need to know from you what that looks like."

These tips are for employers to reap the benefits of having a student worker and enjoy them. Yes, there are an unlimited number of issues that can go on within the workplace, which can often lead to uncomfortable environments, tension and maybe even conflict. But based on various observations I’ve made while working as a student, I know for a fact that it is possible to accomplish change. That is what these five tips are for, so take them or leave them (but seriously, take them).

Lacey Oliveira is a third-year psychology major working with the public relations team in External Relations. She’s a graduate of Ceres High School who enjoys working out and attending Post Malone shows.

InTURN Your Student Job Into Student Success

Karina Ulloa, Political Science Major

Working at UC Merced can be intimidating for students. Many of us are in our first job or feel like we’re surrounded by others who are more important and more experienced than we are. It’s easy to fall into a habit of just doing what you’re told, especially if you’re afraid of making mistakes. But if you want to gain the most value from your student work experience, you need to take initiative. Here are five ways to get out of your comfort zone and take on challenges that will make you more competitive in the job market when you graduate.

#1: Step out of your comfort zone

As a rising senior, I have a had a fair amount of on- and off-campus jobs. Whether the job position applied to my major or not, I always made sure to promote my best work even if I wasn’t familiar with the position. In order to be unique, grow professionally and secure the best opportunities, you must step out of your comfort zone. I know it might be scary to do more than what you're told but trust me, that looks great.

"in order to be unique, to grow professionally, and to secure the best opportunities, you must step out of your comfort zone."

#2: Don’t be Afraid to Do Something Out of the Ordinary

If you want to grow, you have to try new things. It takes confidence, but it’s worth the discomfort to approach your supervisor with innovative ideas and request projects that allow you to develop new skills. Don’t be afraid to speak up. We’re all here to learn.

"don't be afraid to speak up. we're all here to learn."

#3: Seek Constructive Criticism and Embrace It

Now that you’re trying something new, it’s time to ask how you are doing and how you can improve. Feedback is meant to help. Try to see the situation from your supervisor’s perspective. If you don’t agree, be open rather than defensive. Rather than argue, ask, “Can you help me understand why it’s important to do it that way?” If it’s something you think would help others, offer to write it down or add it to training for new hires.

#4: Branch Out and Meet People

I cannot stress how important it is to network in college. Networking is a skill you need to develop. “It’s not what you know but who you know” isn’t just a saying. Your network will serve you well here and beyond. Meet everybody in your department, socialize with your colleagues and ask questions of staff members. Find out how they chose the field, what brought them to Merced, why they like what they do and what they wish was different. This information can help you with your own career decisions and gives you a greater appreciation for the experiences of others.

#5: Build a Good Relationship With Your Boss

You don’t need to be friends with your supervisor or your colleagues, but you need to be friendly. It helps make the work environment more pleasing and will increase your job satisfaction. Part of being friendly is treating others as you would like to be treated. You’re probably already doing this but it doesn’t hurt to be intentional.

As a student worker, you don’t have much control. You can’t negotiate pay, you can’t negotiate benefits. But what you can do is perform to the best of your ability and work to make each day more productive than the last. Once you step out of your comfort zone, you won’t look back.

Karina Ulloa is a rising senior from the San Fernando Valley. She’s a political science major with a double minor in writing and Spanish. She played soccer at Community Charter High School and participates in intramural games here at UC Merced. She’s on the Campus Activities Board and is a member of Delta Gamma.