By Diana Sundermeyer, Student Employment Coordinator for NAU Career Development

I coordinate Student Employment at NAU, and I owe it all to knowing how to swim.

Seriously and literally. I took swim lessons from an early age and Friday evenings were spent at the YMCA with my Mom, where she patiently watched me be a mermaid for the umpteenth time. (This was before you could buy a custom mermaid tail in more than 20 colors.)

During those YMCA years I developed some decent treading-water skills (you need those when you’re short) and I could host a mean underwater tea party for almost 90 seconds.  Much to my Mom’s relief, when I got to high school I realized it was far cooler to be on the soccer team and my mermaid montage ended.

It wasn’t until I got to college that swimming became a part of my life again.  My college had a fancy new Rec Center and at the end of my freshman year I made a friend who was a lifeguard there.  We swam together at the Rec Center pool a few times socially – that’s what you do on Friday nights, right? – and she was looking for a roommate for the summer. It might be hard to imagine, but I was willing to give up living at home and babysitting my smelly brother to be her roommate if I could find a job for the summer to pay for it.  [Insert student employment opportunity here.] The Rec Center pool, where my friend worked, was struggling to find lifeguards for the summer and she mentioned to her boss that she had an awesome gal friend who could swim.  Before I knew it, I was taking a swim test, dive test (those underwater tea parties paid off), and learning lifeguarding skills that I would carry with me into adulthood.  (Beware if you’re the child running down the aisle in the movie theater because I will instinctively mistake it for a pool deck and yell out a preventative “WALK!”)

What does swimming actually have to do with student employment? Plenty.

While ‘swimming’ is no longer on my resume –– that on-campus lifeguard job was the beginning of my career. There are certainly more details to my career path: like how my first professional job was actually in Aquatics (because of that on-campus lifeguard job); and how my preventative, risk-management lens has benefited me in each of my jobs thereafter; and how I’m part of the 75% of people who do not end up in a profession directly related to their undergraduate major (Exercise Science, in case you wondered). But the truth remains that my non-linear career path started with knowing how to swim.

So how can you apply this rambling saga to your own student employment goals?

Here’s the moral of the story and the 1-2-3 of getting an on-campus job

It’s about who you know, what you can do, and whether or not you’re willing to work hard.

  1. Network – Get out there and make friends. Hang out with people who are both alike and different from you and talk about your goals (like getting a job). Want more details on how to do it?  Check out our Career Steps lessons on Networking and Relationship Building.
  2. Know what you can do – Mom’s or teachers are a veritable wealth of information on what you’re good at. But really, what we’re talking about here are your transferable skills, those skills employers want that you can use in multiple situations. NAU Career Development can help you learn how to articulate these skills to employers and you can find those employers and jobs in Handshake, NAU’s online on-campus and part-time job platform.
  3. Show up and try hard – Work ethic and integrity are a thing, and they can make or break your career. People will notice that you show up, do what you say you’re going to do, and try hard even if you aren’t totally psyched on the task. If you’re new to NAU, start off on the right foot and build your professional reputation right. If you’ve been at NAU for a while, it’s never too late to brand yourself as a fabulous student employee. My advice? Just keep swimming.

Need help with your search for student employment?



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