The Hidden Benefits of Being an RA

There are few positions in the world that are as multifaceted as those within Housing and Residence Life.  As an RA, you have the opportunity to try many different things and gain many diverse skills.  From effectively communicating with your supervisor and residents to planning and executing a large-scale student event – these accomplishments are significant and provide you with a skill set that many others do not have.  Professionally, this makes you more marketable.

Being aware of these benefits may also help you to be more invested in the RA position and all of the opportunities for growth that it offers.  Given the right mindset, one could argue that being an RA can actually help prepare you for any job you have interest in.  In this post, I will cover some of the basic professional, personal, social, and financial skills RAs typically attain.  I will also discuss some additional benefits that we often overlook as we get caught up in the daily hustle and bustle of the job.

Hidden Baby

I have always known there were many benefits to being an RA.  This realization hit me most, however, when I began working at Methodist University.  The person in my apartment before me owned all of her own furniture and there was none in storage to use when I moved in.  There were two other new staff members also in this position.  As a result, I was tasked with pricing, comparing, and selecting the furniture for three whole apartments.  This was something completely new to me.  I am no furniture expert, but by the end of the process I was familiar enough with it to know basic furniture needs, some of the best companies to work with, who to talk to, and how to make a good deal.  This is a skill that will benefit me long down the road when it is time for me to start furnishing my own home on my own dime.

Saving money is important!  According to CNN Money, the average wedding cost couples $28,400 in the year 2012.  This number is staggering – and as someone in the process of planning a wedding, it is incredibly daunting…except, I have been planning programs now for years on a budget and what, really, is the difference between coordinating a large-scale program and planning a wedding?  The details may be a little different, but the mechanics are the same.  I already know how to plan an event, how to talk to vendors, the importance of delegating tasks, and who best to ask for help.  As a result, the wedding I am planning will cost well less than one-third of CNN Money’s average and will be just as spectacular!

These are only two examples of how the skills you gain from being an RA will benefit you.  Below are some others.

Professional

  • Resume builder – this is twofold, as it provides you work experience and it opens doors for additional work-related opportunities (i.e. committee involvement, volunteer work, ect.)
  • Networking – as an RA, you are constantly working with and meeting others (Housing professionals, campus resources, off-campus organizations, ect.) and these connections will help for a very long time
  • Experience with Diverse Populations – in the real world, there is no predicting who you will be working with, so your time spent working with people from all walks of life (various ethnicities, socio-economic statuses, sexual orientations, ect.) will come in very handy
  • Knowledge of Resources – while training may sometimes be boring, your Housing Office is providing you with a plethora of good information that has the potential to assist you for the rest of your life
  • Employers LOVE to see Housing Experience on a Resume – they too know that the skills you gained as an RA are transferrable

Personal

  • Public Speaking – a skill some people work to develop all of their lives is one that you develop on a daily basis and utilize constantly while communicating with your residents
  • Administration/Organization – it is impossible to be a good RA and NOT learn how to remain organized (especially when it comes to time management) and complete administrative tasks (RCRs, Incident Reports, Duty Logs, ect.)
  • Conflict Resolution – no matter what you end up doing in life, knowing how to resolve a conflict will be essential
  • Working with a Budget – this is something so very many people simply do not know how to do, but as an RA you are constantly thinking about how to do big things for your residents with only a little bit of money
  • Event Planning – as I mentioned already, the potential with this skill is endless
  • Improvisation – Housing staff members are always thinking on their feet and the ability to process information quickly is an incredible asset in the workforce
  • Key Management – it may seem small, but keys, no matter what stage of life you are in you will have to maintain keys (car, house, work, ect.) and replacing them can be very expensive (ask my husband!)

Social

  • Forced Outside of Comfort Zone – while it is sometimes nice to be comfortable, being asked to try new things or consider things differently is how we grow
  • Leadership Opportunities – as an RA, you are identified as a leader on campus and you will find that many people will gravitate to you; use these opportunities to build strong relationships
  • Access to Cool Events – programming is an essential part of campus life and there are always opportunities for RAs to help plan, run, or participate in them!
  • Family Away from Home – this is no lie or gimmick, for many the Housing staff really does become a family; maybe you won’t jive with everyone on staff, but you will, without a doubt, make friendships that will last a lifetime

Financial

  • Compensation – this varies per university, but can include any variation of a free/discounted room, free parking, or monthly stipend
  • Free Swag – most offices will provide RAs with Housing shirts, name tags, and various other nick-nacks as the year progresses (especially during RA Appreciation Week!)
  • Summer Internships – as I mentioned in Wait, This Can be a Career? The Best Kept Higher Education Non-Secret, there are countless opportunities to work as an RA over the summer to make some additional money
  • Graduate School Assistance – as an RA, you are instantly qualified to apply for graduate assistantships that will help pay for your future education; I also discuss this in greater detail in my previous post

But What Really Matters?

  • You make a difference
  • You are a symbol of change
  • You learn something new everyday
  • You are a teacher
  • You change lives
  • You challenge preconceptions
  • You are a mentor
  • You are a confidant
  • You save lives

So while you may feel like the things you are doing as an RA are mundane, it’s all in the way you look at it.  Sure, filling out RCRs isn’t the most thrilling task, but it does help you learn to be observant, thorough, and complete paperwork quickly.  These things make you extremely marketable – as do all of the other skills you are gaining!

What other skills have you developed in your role as an RA and how will these skills benefit you in the future?  Please take a moment to share your thoughts so that I can expand my lists in the future for others.

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