For many Elon University students, maintaining a job is an integral part of the college experience. Students face a wide variety of choices, ranging from on-campus employment opportunities to employment outside of campus. Students at Elon have options — it’s ultimately what works best for them, given their interests and schedules.
In August 2011, Elon established the starting minimum wage as $9.00 per hour. One of the primary objectives of the policy was to attract students to seek employment on campus rather than off.
Tom Brinkley, executive director of corporate and employer relations at Elon, believes the higher minimum wage rate contributes to the competitive nature of on-campus jobs, which are often filled soon after being posted to the Elon Job Network.
“I think the wage rate is very appealing to students,” Brinkley said. “The jobs off campus… are not going to pay that rate, so students are more inclined to seek these jobs if they are looking for employment.”
Typically, students interested in on-campus employment submit a resume and a cover letter and then complete an interview, a practice intended to mimic the job application process after graduation and prepare students for their careers.
“It is a competitive process, so [when] they are interviewing for jobs, they are required to have a resume,” Brinkley said. “It’s just like having a job outside. They are employed and evaluated and subject to expectations.”
As a result, students with on-campus jobs are constantly honing their professional skills. Brinkley said students’ professional growth is facilitated faster when they are employed during college. According to him, on-campus employment complements student development.
Nancy Carpenter, Elon’s on-campus student employment coordinator, agreed. She noted students who have a job listed on their resume are more attractive candidates for internships and jobs after graduation. She believes the training and structure students receive from on-campus jobs is significant and contributes to the professionalism of on-campus jobs.
“There have been surveys that indicate that employers are attracted to students who have had an on-campus job,” Carpenter said. “I think we have a structure here that may or may not be present off campus.”
Sophomore Jordan Lockhart recently accepted a job as a student office assistant in the School of Communications. Because she doesn’t have a car at school, an on-campus job was a must.
As a Communications Fellow, she was interested in a job to boost her resume. Additionally, she recognized the networking possibilities of placing herself in an environment where she could connect with others.
“It’s a more professional level of responsibility,” Lockhart said. “Everyone comes through the school at some point.”
Students who have off-campus jobs also recognize the benefits their employment opportunities have provided. Sophomore Sarah Reynolds has worked consistently for six months at Amber’s House of Dance as a tap and ballet teacher.
Reynolds said her job has certainly helped her time management skills. She also said she was attracted to her job because it allowed her to continue a passion of hers from high school, an opportunity that was not available on-campus.
Reynolds also appreciates working with people off-campus. She said interacting with her students and their parents is “comforting,” and she appreciates the support she receives from them.
“Having that outside family is something that not a lot of people get to experience,” Reynolds said.
Senior Caleigh Erickson, who has worked at LOFT in Alamance Crossing for about three years, has a similar perspective. She said she enjoys entering the “real world” each week.
“It’s nice to be with people who aren’t students and come from different walks of life,” Erickson said. “Some of the types of people I work with I may have never met through any activity at Elon, so it’s really broadened my perspective and given me a glimpse into other lifestyles.”
Erickson also works on-campus as a French tutor, so she has control over her hours. Her job at LOFT and her job as a tutor have allowed her to prioritize academics while simultaneously earning an income.
Overall, students who are employed on and off campus are challenged to accommodate both their academic and professional obligations.
“It is smart to put school first if you can and look for a job that accommodates your academic goals. My work schedule is very flexible and allows me to put school first,” Erickson said. “It is nice to have a job that I enjoy and that lets me be a full-time student first, because that’s why I’m here in the first place.”