Make Your On-Campus Jobs More Impactful

On-campus student employment has been a hot topic in career centers across the country in recent years. As the responsibility for these programs has shifted within many institutions from financial aid or human resources departments to the career center or student life, the focus of the programs themselves has also shifted from the numbers to the student experience. The question on many administrators’ minds has been: Can we make on-campus employment a benefit not only for student financial aid, but for the campus community as a whole?

The answer, from campuses that have embraced on-campus employment as a valuable student experience, has been a resounding yes. When on-campus jobs are set up in ways that focus on purpose and student learning, both students and campus employers benefit.

More than just college "work-study", a campus job today needs to truly benefit the student and the institution. It's the work experience and the impact it delivers to the employer that's key.

Support supervisors to support students

The most impactful–and challenging–piece of on-campus employment is providing successful management and supervision for student workers.

Effective management is a skill–yet very few supervisors of student workers are provided any kind of management training prior to the experience. Instead, in many offices, supervision of student workers is assigned based on job capacity regardless of management experience. This can have negative consequences not only for the student’s employment experience, but for the office or department hoping to utilize student employment in their operations.

When students find their on-campus job purposeful and are given real opportunities to contribute, everyone benefits. The student gains valuable work experience for their resume and future interviews. The employer gains valuable contributions from the additional work hours and resources students can provide. As such, investing some time into your institution’s student management practices can provide exponential returns–both in terms of student outcomes and institutional operations. The good news: there are some simple steps supervisors can make the most of student employment.

Connecting internship seekers with campus employment, makes it very easy for coaches and counselors to remind the student about the importance of finding purpose in education and career

purpose in education and career.


Use one-on-ones to boost student motivation

For a first step: Schedule regular meetings with your student employees to discuss their work progress and how it relates to their personal career goals.

Even if your student worker has no plans to enter a career or industry adjacent to your department, every job offers opportunities for students to practice and hone necessary career skills like oral and written communication, collaboration, and time management. Take the time to get to know your student worker and discuss their long-term career goals, then have them set a few SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound) goals that they can work towards within their student job. Every time you meet with the student to discuss work progress, refer back to their SMART goals for the job and remind them how those goals relate to their longer-term career goals. This will help the student see their current job as a stepping stone into their future career, motivating them to take the opportunity seriously and make the most out of it.

PathwayU can be a useful tool for student supervisors in starting and continuing these conversations. Have your student workers complete the PathwayU assessments and discuss the results with them as they complete work tasks. What strengths are they demonstrating in their work projects? How do those align with their PathwayU results and their career goals?

Conversations like these are the ones that will stick with students–and they will help supervisors drive home the importance of the work their students are doing.


Keep the campus conversation going

One of the most important things campus employment advocates can do is promote resources and information about the benefits of student employment. Institutional support is critical in making student employment a worthwhile investment for both students and offices. Make sure your campus supervisors know how to access student employment resources like PathwayU so they can make the most of the experience–both for their students and for themselves. Head over to the Resources section of the PathwayU site to download and share fliers about how to access the platform, and remind your campus colleagues of how PathwayU and other career center resources can help them create a positive and engaging work experience for student employees.


 Jen Gose is a former higher ed administrator who now contributes  strategic content and copy on higher ed topics.