The First Contact

| December 1, 2015

For me great management starts in the very first interactions and contact I have with potential student workers. Let’s face it, most of them are not going to be librarians one day. They are students for a reason and are studying something they care about and value. They come to me because they need a job and working on campus is often the easiest way to manage life, work, and school. I don’t expect them to come to me with library experience or, if they are freshman, any experience at all. I don’t expect them to demonstrate an unrealistic level of commitment to the library with all of the competing demands inherent to being a student. I really only expect them to demonstrate two things to me: that they will listen and follow directions.

When a student comes to the library and asks me for a job, I give them an application and ask them to fill it out completely. I explicitly tell them that I will not look at incomplete applications.

For some reason, this doesn’t mean I only receive complete applications. When I do receive an application that is incomplete, I throw it in the trash. I have given simple directions. To me it is a red flag when the first set of directions I give, attached to clear consequences for not following those directions, are ignored.

Sometimes students whose applications ended up in the trash will come and ask about their applications after not hearing from me. I repeat to them the same directions and the same consequences I listed the first time I saw them. I think this is important. It communicates to a potential student worker that I mean what I say and will do as I say. As a manager, I believe this is important to establish early on. I always allow students to follow the directions a second time. And so far, that second chance has always resulted in a complete application.

It hasn’t happened yet, but if I were to receive a second incomplete application, I would not continue considering that student for potential work in the library. To me, it is important for students to know that I have expectations of them. I make sure that those expectations, as well as the consequences for not meeting the expectations, are clear. This starts with our first interactions.