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5 Things I Learned as a Student Worker

Let me start off by saying that I absolutely love my job. This article is for those who are interested in the ever-growing and rewarding field of instructional design. There is a common saying about Mondays that always makes me smile, “Mondays aren’t so bad, it’s your job that sucks.” Well, I can honestly say that I no longer hate Mondays, but it was not always this way. I moved to Flagstaff with empty pockets and an irrationally full head of optimism.  My college tuition had sucked me dry of my entire life’s savings and I was left with the daunting task of finding a job as quickly as possible.  While working in a position that I found absolutely miserable, I decided that there had to be something better.  I went straight to my laptop and scrolled through the university job listings until I found an interesting post. I’m not going to lie…the pay is what definitely caught my attention.

As I read on; however, I grew more intrigued with the job itself.  The title was listed as “Instructional Designer Apprentice.” This meant that I would be working on a team full of professional Instructional Designers. Although my hopes were high, I did not think I would be hired. I was a psychology major at the time and had no work experience other than being a waitress and a cook. I decided to go for it, though, and wrote an email to the supervisor. I knew that I had to make up for my sparse resume with my cover letter so I made sure to list my hobbies, which included video editing.  I was called to an interview and hired the next day.  Taking a chance and writing that email was the best decision I could’ve made. Working on the Learning and Professional Development team and being surrounded by motivated professionals has been a wonderful experience.

There are many things I have learned throughout my year of being on the team, but there are 5 specific aspects that have stood out significantly.

  1.    Ask Questions

    When I was first hired, I was timid to ask questions.  I did not want to bother my superiors with questions about seemingly simple tasks.  I learned quickly, though, that it was my job to ask questions.  Every day is meant to be a learning experience. If you are not widening your knowledge day by day, then what are you doing? Silently questioning everything? Completing menial tasks without asking the purpose? As a student worker, I am here to aid my team in any way necessary.  I cannot do that without asking questions and growing my skills as a professional.

  1.    Be Challenged

    After working on simple tasks, such as closed captioning and basic cuts, one of my superiors emailed me about a more advanced project where I would be designing slides based off of a script. Though it may seem simple, it was quite the challenge for a new student employee. I had skimmed over the presentations we were making before hand and was not sure what exactly I was supposed to be doing. I was up for the challenge, though. After working long hours on the project, I successfully finished it and was given more challenging projects afterwards.  I finally had the chance to show my creative side.  Although receiving advanced work can seem like a daunting task, it is necessary for professional growth.  Don’t be afraid of the challenge; accept them with a determined mindset.

  1.    Don’t Overwork Yourself

    Making sure that you have as minimal stress as possible seems easier said than done, but it is critical that you do not overwork yourself.  There have been times where I would leave the workplace and still be thinking about my projects and what I needed to do to finish them. I would continuously check my email while on vacation and would stress out about not being at work.  It took me a while to learn the difference between being dedicated and overworking myself.

    My job requires a lot of creativity; therefore, being stressed does not help anything.  Feeling stressed is understandable and normal, but overworking yourself is not okay.  Never push yourself past your limits. The skills in this field cannot be learned in a few short months, or even a year for that matter. Accept that there will be times when you are embarrassed by the projects you are working on and don’t stress over them.  Reflect on your current work and continue to grow because it will only get better.

  1.    Appreciate the Small Things

    Spending hours at my desk and staring at a screen can become miserable.  I have learned to appreciate every opportunity there is to change up the day.  Whether it is to finish a recording, open a lab, or simply go on a bagel run.  Tasks that I, at one point, considered boring are now some of my favorite activities.  I thoroughly enjoy voice recording in the studio. I appreciate the thirty-second walk outside, I appreciate setting up the microphone, and I appreciate being able to just mindlessly speak.

    Recording may not be everyone’s favorite work duty, but it is definitely mine. I can sit cross-legged on the chair, read aloud the seemingly endless scripts, and laugh at myself every time I mess up. Try celebrating when you have overcome a particularly challenging task or or even when you figure something out that no one else could.  When you celebrate and appreciate these small moments, a seemingly miserable day can be completely turned around.

  1.    Take Advantage of the Experience

    Since I work on a team of professionals, I have many opportunities to learn new skills.  I was given the opportunity to work with Adobe Premiere Pro, Captivate, and Audition and made sure to fully utilize the applications.  I was also able to become a certified Microsoft Office Specialist and spent weeks of my free time studying for the certification tests.  After receiving my certification, I was able to teach an Outlook 2013 class to the faculty and staff of NAU. Teaching the class is one of my favorite job roles and I am so glad that I took advantage of my certifications.   Overall, just remember that the main point is to grow as a professional.  The only way you will do this is if you ask questions and fully take advantage of the experience. Instructional Design can be fast-paced and stressful at times, but it is a fascinating and rewarding career.

Bri is currently pursuing a dual major in Special Education and Elementary Education at NAU. Her professional strengths lie in her creativity and knowledge of multimedia editing, which are important aspects of the Instructional Design process. Bri is a currently a guest blogger for Designed:2:Learn.

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