I had the opportunity to work as a Resident Assistant, otherwise known as an RA at OU this past year. When I took the job, it was just another opportunity that I had been granted, another thing to add to my growing resumé, and a job that I was ready to conquer. What I learned, however, is that it’s quite a difficult position to manage. I loved the job, but it was definitely something that I struggled with at times. It gave me a chance to learn an awful lot, though, so I’m sharing those lessons here. Keep reading for 11 lessons learned as an RA at OU.
1. Manage your time wisely.
This might have been the single most difficult part for me, because I am absolutely terrible at managing my time. But really, one of the biggest things I’ve noticed in successful people is that they are always able to schedule and plan their time in a way that sets them up for success. Set up a calendar, put your classes in, insert some scheduled time to do homework each day, even schedule in time to watch Netflix if you have to, but putting everything into your calendar keeps you honest and ensures you’ll have time to accomplish what you need to. Planners and to-do lists are your friend for staying on task.
2. Anything can be a floor program.
This is a little more RA-specific, but that doesn’t mean the concept won’t apply elsewhere. I was always a little bit behind on scheduling programs for my floor section, but I learned that you can turn anything into something productive. See some people watching sports in the lounge? Bring out some snacks and knock on doors to get people to join. The point is that anything can be an opportunity to make connections and be productive.
3. Take leaps of faith.
Really though. Don’t be afraid to take your chances. In my first week, I was a bit awkward and shy and just knocking on each door to introduce myself (which was expected as part of the job) was hard, but taking that step and doing it gave me the opportunity to make bigger leaps later in the year. With the residents I had managed to connect with early, it was a lot easier to maintain the connection needed to not only do my job, but form relationships outside of the work.
4. Adopt an attitude of “yes, and…”
This comes from the drama improv concept that you never reject what you’re given and you run with it, but it applies to the RA position and honestly the rest of life. If somebody comes to you with an idea, a problem, or a question, your response shouldn’t be “Sorry I’m not available,” because that doesn’t help you or anyone else. You should always greet opportunity with enthusiasm, and offer something you can contribute. “Yes, I can help, and here’s how.”
5. …But learn when to say no.
That being said, there will be times when your plate is full and opportunities keep coming your way, and it may be tempting to continue piling them on. This year, I took 20 credit hours, worked as an RA, and involved myself in 7 student orgs with leadership positions in 3 of those. Overall, it wound up with a lot of stress, 4-5 hours of sleep each night, and a sense of being spread too thin so that I couldn’t give my full attention to anything. The problem was that early in the year I had jumped at every opportunity I was offered. What I should have done instead is choose the things that I really cared most about and that I found most fulfilling. It’s much more rewarding to be successful at a few things you care about than overwork yourself to the point where you can’t accomplish anything.
6. Really, it’s all about balance.
Throughout life, you have to find a sense of balance. In the RA position, you have to find a balance between being firm and chill, being available and having time to yourself, and your academics vs. your work and extracurriculars. In almost everything you do, there will be conflicting forces that you have to manage and allow for a little bit of everything. Learning to find that sense of balance is one of the most important lessons on the road to success.
7. Don’t get bogged down by administrative tasks.
It can be tough when you have a demanding position that requires a lot of work, and then you have to sit down and do the paperwork. It can be tempting to put all that off and just let it pile up. But really, compared to the other requirements, the administrative aspects are the easier parts to get out of the way, so don’t let them pile up. Take them as they come and finish them off.
8. You won’t like everyone, but you still have to work with them.
I got really lucky to work with a great staff and have a good bunch of residents. But it doesn’t always happen that way, and even if you’re not working with your friends or best friends, you’ve got to see them and deal with them every day. That means you have to learn how to show respect, even if you don’t always think it’s earned, if you ever want to get respect back.
9. Sometimes it’s OK to take time for yourself.
Everyone in the world needs to take some time to refresh. There’s no shame in taking time away from work and going out or staying in to recharge. So go ahead and relax for a day, and then come back to work ready to go. You’ll be less stressed and more productive, and you won’t go totally insane.
10. You can always include everyone.
Seriously, there’s never a reason to leave someone out. As an RA, it’s your job to make sure everyone gets to be part of the community, and while it can sometimes be easy to program to the needs of the people you see and talk to most often, you have to make sure you’re reaching out to everyone. It’s not always easy, but the best communities are the ones that don’t leave anyone out, and there’s always an opportunity to make everyone feel welcome.
11. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
This might be the most important lesson I learned. You are never alone, no matter how many things are on your plate or what you’re dealing with. You can always reach out to friends, fellow staff members, and resources. One of the most important lessons I learned was how to self-care and self-advocate. Self care is pretty well understood, but self-advocacy is a lot trickier because a lot of people don’t know how to speak up for what they need to be successful, but it’s one of the most important skills you can learn, so never be afraid to let someone know you need a hand.
Were you an RA at OU or anywhere else? What did your experience teach you? Tweet @Society19_OU or comment below!
Featured image source: ministryoftofu.com, youtube.com
Rhys is a Music Therapy student at Ohio University. He sings in 3 choirs and an A Cappella group and can be found eating burritos, drinking coffee, or randomly and sometimes inappropriately bursting into song in public.