What I Learned As A Student Leader

I wasn’t a manager for long, but I learned A LOT from this job.

In August, 2015 I had to find a way to earn money while taking classes when I made a decision to pursue a second Bachelor’s degree. Even though I chose to study journalism in hope of a glamorous job in beauty public relations or beauty journalism, I still had rent to pay.

When I chose to stay in school, I was down for any job available. Even if the first job available was undesirable, I told myself I would work it for a couple of weeks and look for a better job.

Unfortunately, the first job available happened to be a job at a dining hall on campus … not my first choice at all.

However, I got the job and maintained an attitude positive enough to get promoted as a student manager my third week on the job. I didn’t know a person working at this place nor did I know anything about being a manager.

But as I said, I learned A LOT from three semesters I was a manager.

I learned how to learn things faster.

 

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I had to learn everything about the dining hall in a very short time after being promoted. And by everything, I mean EVERYTHING.

I had to learn how to serve every kind of food the dining hall served, how to accept customer payments, the customer service standards, the safety guidelines, how to shut down the entire dining facility at night and how to, on my own, open up the facility.

Learning all these things in a matter of a couple months taught me how to learn anything faster. (Before this job, I had to study several hours before I understood material on certain exams, now it only takes me a couple hours to study.)

Hopefully I learn the ropes of my next job quickly, too.

I learned how to be effectively confrontational.

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I only have one sister and she’s older than me, and naturally I don’t look out for people. Instead, I wait for others to look out for me. This job taught me I don’t have to wait for others. Whenever there’s conflict, I can just put myself ‘out there’ and solve the problem.

 

This job required me to communicate effectively with other employees. A lot of times we, as a staff, had a lot to get done, and it was up to me and the other managers to make sure everything got done. I managed a lot of very hard-working employees, but there were definitely some employees who regularly needed to be told what to do. Whenever there was conflict with these employees, I had to step in and let them know they had to work harder.

 

This took a lot of effort for me to do at first, but I learned how. I figured out ways to get others to listen to me, and now I know how to better stand up for myself and others.

 

I learned body language says a lot about you.

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This might be said a lot, but it’s true — body language matters. While I might have a decent amount of self-confidence now, I’m naturally a bit shy. The other student managers at this dining hall were the opposite — confident.

Why did they seem confident? They had good body language.

I don’t just mean they smiled or they knew how to maintain eye contact. I always knew how to do those things. What I’m saying is they looked relaxed and sure of themselves.

What do I mean? Often times, when I’m unsure of myself, I might stumble around, walk too quickly or make myself look smaller, and then I come off as nervous. If I take a second to just relax and remind myself everything will be okay, I’ll (usually) stand taller and appear more ‘ready’ automatically.

Doing what I just mentioned makes it easier for people to come up to me. If I look sure of myself, other people will be sure of me.

I learned to care less.

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Unlike other my fellow managers who got promoted after a year on the job, this dining hall decided to promote me after less than a month on the job (I still wonder how I was promoted so quickly.) Because of this, I had so much to learn in such little time. Many people in my shoes doubted I’d make a good manager, so I worked really hard to prove them wrong — probably too hard.

All that made me feel as if I had to do everything myself. Feeling this way all the time made me very overwhelmed while working. But the truth is, I had a lot of other people in my shoes who could help me get stuff done and feel less overwhelmed.

Caring less made it easier for me to come in for work each day and just roll with things. Now, this doesn’t mean I became a totally complacent manager (well, maybe sometimes). It just means I learned to be easier on myself. It’s better not to be pressured do everything at once. If something goes wrong, the only thing to do is laugh it off and move forward.

I learned what matters at work.

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Is it the respect of the place I work what matters? Is it the money I earn what matters? Or is it the people I work with what matters? Probably the people I work with. At least, that’s what I learned from this job.

 

I know I was a pretty shy manager my first two semesters on the job, and I know I didn’t get along perfectly with everyone at this dining hall. But, I did become more conversational as time went on, and there were few people I genuinely looked forward to work with each day. Most of these people were very down-to-earth and fun to talk to.

 

This taught me to really evaluate what I want in a future job. If a company is really well-known but an unwelcoming place to work, is the prestige of that job really worth it for me? Probably not, I’ll spend many hours at work and those hours better be happy hours.

 

I learned I love, love, LOVE free food.

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One of the best parts about this job, was the food. All student managers at this dining hall got free meals whenever they had a shift. Since I was a student manager (like mentioned a few times above), I got free meals, and what’s better if you’re in college when you can get your hands on a free bowl of birthday cake ice cream or basket of jalapeno cheese fries? Nothing! I hate to admit it, but I’ll miss those free meals.