Many college students apply to become a resident assistant (RA) for the perks — which often include free room and board. What they should be thinking about is how the job can benefit them in their future careers. As a resident assistant at La Salle University, here are five skills I believe that becoming a RA can provide to college students with dreams of working in public relations.
Most people don’t think about it but being a RA provides opportunities for them to improve their writing. When an incident occurs, RAs are required to write a detailed and objective report of what happened. This writing style is similar to the format of a press release or news story. Fellow RAs and student affairs employees will also critique your writing and give helpful feedback on how to become a better writer!
RAs are responsible for planning both fun and informative programs for their residents. These programs don’t just plan themselves! RAs typically need to plan their events ahead of time. This helps RAs develop time management skills and learn how to plan events that appeal to a large group of people. They also get the opportunity to work on their marketing skills by creating flyers, using social media and sending emails to convince their residents to attend their programs.
RAs almost never work alone; the job requires teamwork and collaboration. Whether RAs are planning building-wide programs or patrolling the residence halls, they are constantly learning from each other and bouncing ideas off their colleagues. Being a RA teaches young adults how to compromise and settle differences in a professional manner. Just like in the workplace post- graduation, RAs do not get to pick who they work with. The job gives students a taste of working with different kinds of people and attempting to reach team goals.
Similar to how public relations professionals need to be ready to handle any unexpected crisis, RAs need to be ready for anything to happen. A roommate conflict, a policy violation or a health situation can arise at any moment of the day or night. RAs learn to develop composure and stay levelheaded in high-stress situations, two skills that will help any PR professional to expect the unexpected.
College residents view RAs as leaders on campus. RAs need to live up to this expectation by owning the role and learning how to be confident in an authority role. RAs develop many traits of leadership over the course of the job — empathy in tough emotional situations, integrity in times of tough decision making, engagement in providing residents with a welcoming community and many more.
The list of skills is too long to count and different for every RA but one thing is certain — the resident assistant role provides relevant experience for any aspiring public relations professional to utilize in their future careers.
Zachary Raczka is a junior communication major concentrating in public relations and communication management at La Salle University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He currently is the La Salle University PRSSA Chapter treasurer and a resident assistant on campus. To learn more about Zachary, connect with him on LinkedIn