What I learned from being a VRA

Akanksha Yeola - 22 January 2021

As every year passes by we realize the importance of getting work experience on our résumés to land that perfect job. Like many of you, at the beginning of this year, I was contemplating if I wanted to stick to a full-course load and that one club I was interested in or if I wanted to try something new and learn new skills. Eventually, I convinced myself to the latter.

After an interesting and unexpectedly testing semester, I can truly and confidently say that I have developed transferable skills that I didn’t think I would have by the end of this academic year!

But you might be asking, "What are transferable skills, anyway?" To put it simply, these are skills that once developed can be used in any environment and workplace regardless of your job description.

As part of the Residence Life team, every student staff member participates in various training sessions throughout the academic year. These training sessions helped me take that extra step to learn, understand and implement the skills that I was being introduced to in a safe, supportive and engaging setting.

Here are a few transferable skills which I learnt being a VRA and Storyteller that I am going to use in my future career—I'm glad I developed them!

Time management

One of the biggest challenges in university is to be able to learn how to manage your time effectively. All the training that I received helped me prioritize my tasks and plan my day.

Balancing work, classes, extracurricular activities, and your social and personal life can be challenging. It takes practice, conscious effort and a supportive community to tackle this and being a part of this team taught me just that!

Effective communication (verbal and written)

Employers love when you've got creative writing or great public speaking skills! Having the ability to get the message across in an eloquent, effective and fun way is really important in any job. My job entails sending out emails to my community, hosting programs, writing blogs (like this one! So much fun!) and facilitating discussions.

It definitely took me time before I felt comfortable hosting meetings with more than 50 people on a call. It was nerve wracking in the beginning but I enjoy it now! This skill is crucial in today’s world, especially when everything is virtual and you have to be yourself on a screen.

Problem solving

There will be times when you feel stuck, lost or overwhelmed by everything that is happening around you. I felt the same during many occasions this semester—but I learnt that your supervisors, colleagues, community and critical thinking are always to your rescue. I am so thankful for having this community and all the support.

Teamwork

One of the biggest perks of working in residence is learning how to work in a team. Having a diverse team brings a lot of different perspectives to the table—a perfect learning environment. Although I have always been a team player, this role pushed me out of my comfort zone to work with different people with different personalities to not only create successful programs but also learn from them!

Adaptability

No one can deny that COVID has changed a lot for each one of us. I was initially offered the position of a traditional RA; however, in these circumstances when so many students were in different time zones and in need of a supportive community, the role of a VRA emerged. I had to adapt and perform.

Adaptability is a key skill that most jobs require. Although it has been challenging, I am glad I learnt so much from this experience and continue to do so!

If you are thinking of trying something new this year, don’t think twice—just do it! You’ll thank yourself later. :)


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