True story: My life as an RA helped me become the ultimate #Girlboss
May 18, 2016 at 4:00 pm
The RA (Resident Assistant) job, also known as CA (Community Assistant) and PA (Peer Advisor), is one of the most underrated and misunderstood college jobs. RAs are not campus police, and contrary to popular belief, they don’t enjoy making the students’ college experience a living hell. To be totally honest, most of the time they don’t even get paid enough money to do so.
The life of an RA is crazy but rewarding.
From dealing with resident issues, promoting a safe environment, conducting meetings, planning programs and — oh, yeah — maintaining a high GPA in school, they are still expected to be a role model to residents and to other students on campus. The amount of experience and skills that one can gain from the position is invaluable, and there are so many long-term benefits that it could have on your career. Even if you don’t remain in the student housing industry post-grad, having experience as an RA and just putting it on your resume will have recruiters sliding in your DMs.
I currently work for the #1 student housing company in the US (this is a fact – I’m not just tooting my company’s horn), and it all started because I was an RA for that same company (American Campus Communities) back in undergrad.
Other than the company I work for, there are other student housing companies that hire students early on as RAs, and the skills that they learn can help them gain higher positions with the company (or it can help them get jobs with other companies because the skills they learn are so impressive). Even more, the student housing industry is ever-growing, so it’s definitely a career field that one should consider if they’re looking for job security.
If you’re still in school, I highly recommend you pursue a job as an RA. At many universities, RA recruitment occurs in the fall and spring, so you might have a chance at getting the RA role for the next academic year. As a former RA and now a new General Manager, here are the top reasons why you should consider being an RA while in college:
FREE OR REDUCED HOUSING
Having free housing is one of the best benefits of being an RA (I would be lying if I didn’t admit so). If you don’t receive free housing, you might receive discounted rent instead (which is also good). In addition, at some schools and with some student housing companies, you can receive a free dining meal plan, a paycheck, and free or discounted parking. With all of the perks above, you can save you up to $4,000 a semester. We all know the price of rent keeps increasing, so who can argue with having a discount?
AN OPPORTUNITY TO BE A PART OF SOMETHING BIGGER THAN YOU
Gone are the days when you can live your life recklessly (which you shouldn’t be doing anyway). When you’re an RA, you’re expected to be a role model to others and you serve as an example of what a hard-working student should look like. Whether it’s for guidance on how to get around on campus, advice after a break-up, or generic tips on being a student, your dorm leader is there to help. Being an RA, you can no longer live a selfish life, and you’re expected to be selfless and a positive leader in all aspects of your job, both on and off campus. In addition, you might be asked to be a part of several service events that occur at your property or on campus. Just being able to help others should be enough of a reason for anyone to want to consider the RA role.
As an RA, you’ll learn the following skills that will boost your resume and will give you a leg up on the career competition:
- Management and leadership skills – You’ll oversee an apartment building or dorm hall, and you’re expected to keep everything in the building under control and be able to manage your residents properly. At one point when I was an RA, I had 72 residents, so I was always really busy with managing my building and building a personal relationship with each resident.
- Event planning, marketing and budgeting skills – Maintaining a sense of community is vital and mandatory. You’ll be expected to create and implement programs that will use your creativity and knowledge to keep residents engaged and interacting with each other. The programs that you’ll create and coordinate will help you shape the resident’s college experience, and will also bring traffic to your property. Also, when you are in control of planning the programs, you’ll be in charge of the budgeting and cost control for the program. You’ll have to figure out how to properly plan a program while staying under budget, and even more, you will have to figure out how to properly market the program. As an RA, you’ll learn the different ways to market and how to use different marketing techniques to drive traffic.
- Conflict management and counseling skills – Being an RA isn’t always fun. There will be times when there will be physical and verbal fights between residents. At this moment, you learn how to properly manage conflict and how to counsel the involved parties. This experience alone can be helpful in your future endeavors, especially if you work in management.
- Experience in sales and how to close a deal – Other than providing a sense of community, one of the most important areas of the RA job is signing leases. Without signing leases with residents, the property that you are an RA at wouldn’t thrive, and the job wouldn’t exist. You will undergo training on how to properly market your product (aka your property), and how to sell it to others. You will also learn key sales techniques, how to overcome objections from customers, and how to close the deal and get the lease signed.
FULL-TIME JOB AFTER COLLEGE
As an RA, I had the opportunity to work with a company that likes to hire and promote from within. I served in the position for two years and was able to stay with my company after college (whoop to a full-time job with benefits and more)! Within three short years, between my work ethic and reading amazing self-help books such as The One Minute Manager and Good to Great by Jim Collins, I was able to quickly move up the ladder as an Assistant General Manager, Associate General Manager and now General Manager.
I know many other people that also started out as RAs and now are high-level managers on the student housing property side and on the corporate level. Other than my company, there are many student housing management companies and universities that promote from within and love developing RAs.
Being an RA is just the beginning of one’s career – even after college you can stay with that same company and move up just like I did.