Although working at hamburger joints that leave grease deposits imbedded deep in your skin and delivering pizza to inebriated college students who don’t tip is fantastically appealing, if you’ve ever considered working at a job that actually gives you real life experience, builds your resume and pays good money–minimum wage or higher!– then you should consider diverting your incredible talents from the fine pizza and burger establishments in Bellingham to work for the Associated Students.

Now, I realize that the Associated Students sounds suspiciously similar to your high school ASB. Although the Associated Students has a student government, it only comprises a part of the AS as a whole. Clubs and organizations found around campus are a part of the AS, receiving funding, advising and support; AS Programs are ongoing, board-mandated functions with operating budgets, programming funds and office space. Services also offered by the AS include the Recycling Center and the Publicity Center. If your ears perked up when I mentioned a paying job earlier, you’ll probably be most interested in those last two due to the fact that they are hiring right now for close to fifty employees for the 2006-2007 academic year.

AS Programs include the Ethnic Student Center, the Outdoor Center, AS Productions, the Environmental center, KUGS-FM and the Resource and Outreach programs. Their very purpose is to “help enrich the college experience through the many events, discussions and services they sponsor,” as professed on the AS web site. Not only do they deepen the college experience for those who attend the events, the students who coordinate the events are immersed in causes they are passionate about.

A lot of people in the Productions office have done or would be doing the very same things that are encompassed in their job at the AS without getting paid according to Jessica Tracey, co-Coordinator for ASP Civil Controversy. When Tracey first talked to a friend who worked for the AS about all of the fascinating things he was doing, she was absolutely surprised to find out that he was paid to do it.

“It’s a very cool opportunity [the AS] gives to student [employees],” said Tracey. “They are getting all of this support, funding and freedom to go out and do it on a small level.”

Services offered by the AS are aimed at educating students about their campus and community as well as carrying out important functions like recycling.

Students employed in either the AS programs or services obtain a great deal of marketable skills that can help out in future careers– especially when compared to the skills learned at a fast food joint. Mostly, these skills are derived from working a job that requires a high level of responsibility, efficacy and ability to problem solve. Students are thrown into the mix, having to work together without the being told exactly what to do by a boss that’s generations older. By working together, students learn to collaborate and network very effectively and in a professional context.

Employee trainings, which are put on twice each quarter by the Personnel office, provide employees with practical workshops that might be helpful to them in their current jobs as well as in future careers. Past classes have included topics like time management, stress management and diversity training.

Also, students learn how to effectively tap into university resources because they typically utilize these resources when organizing events or when trying to dig for information about particular issues.

Gina Kim, AS Personnel Director, summed it up when she told me, “I’m glad that it’s on my resume.”

Kim also remarked that the working environment in the AS is made very pleasant due to the students that are employed there; “I really like the people in the AS; they are passionate, motivated and committed to their positions. It’s inspiring to see some of the amazing things that come from different groups.”

Tracey had similarly positive things to say about her coworkers, “I feel very supported here…that people care and want to help make what I’m doing very successful. Everyone puts a lot of effort into their work. The community feel of the AS is also a great aspect. It’s nice to be around similar oriented people who are committed to reaching out and making the campus better.”

Although I like to think that you are interested in and AS position for purely altruistic purposes, I realize that it’s only human to be wondering about the money.

The AS employs both salaried and hourly-wage employees. Salaried employees are paid the same amount each month on a pay-scale based on approximate weekly hours. This “frees you up,” according to Tracey, who holds a salaried position, “since you are not always focusing on money. You can focus on what you’re doing so when you are working you are pretty efficient.” Tracey discussed how a guaranteed monthly allotment was also a good balancing mechanism, because the nature of some AS jobs, especially those involved in planning events, is to be very busy at times and slow at others.

Hourly employees are required to enter their hours online and therefore earn variable amounts depending on their weekly work load. Most hourly jobs focus their hiring at the beginning of fall quarter, but a few jobs are open for the beginning of the school year during this spring hiring period.

Salaried jobs are hired for the entire academic school year, from September to June, and students are allowed to set their own office hours. This is extremely beneficial for busy students with jam-packed schedules.

Both salaried and hourly jobs are based on putting academics first by allowing students a “reasonable” amount of hours for part time work. Students’ hours are limited to working 19 hours a week between all campus jobs.

The application process for AS jobs starts at VU 505. Here, a filing cabinet sits outside the door where applications and job descriptions can be picked up. Completed applications are due on Friday, March 17 at 5 p.m.

“AS jobs are extremely competitive,” said Kim, “Because the jobs are all on campus, you can set your own hours and also there are the benefits of working for a student run organization…these jobs are pretty highly desired amongst college students.”

Along with investing some serious time in your application, Kim also highly suggests carefully proof reading your applications. She didn’t seem very impressed with the “simplistic spelling mistakes” that she had seen on past applications.

Applications for salaried positions must include a typed cover letter which addresses specific questions–which are detailed in the application, a resume, names and contact numbers for two or more references and a schedule of dates and times after spring break when you are available to interview.

As far as what you put on your application, experience is highly valued in the applicant, according to Kim; “They take into account your work history in general and the kinds of things you’ve done in your past.” However, experience specific to the position you’re applying for isn’t the only factor; they also look for potential and many offices focus seriously on calls to references; “They look at your capacity to succeed from previous experience that you’ve had,” explained Kim.

The hiring is done by committees, which are comprised of five people: three from the office that is hiring for the particular job, one from outside the office to provide an objective viewpoint and an advisor, according to Kim. The committee gets together and decides on questions they will ask interviewees, they review applications and eventually chose about three people to be interviewed. Once the interviews have been completed, the committee reaches a majority decision. “It’s a democratic process,” Kim said.

If you’re interested in talking to actual employees about their particular jobs, there is a Job Fair on Tuesday, March 7 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the VU Multi Purpose Room. “Not only do you get to ask the people questions who actually work the jobs you’re interested in, these are also the people who are in the hiring committees, so it may be beneficial to meet them in advance,” said Kim.

To be honest, I’m not sure why I’m telling you all this, simply because of the fact that you could snatch my job right out from under me. Yes, believe it or not, I get paid to write incredibly eloquent and occasionally entirely too personal stories for the AS Review, and my job is on the auction block.

In my overall experience, working for the Associated Students has been a remarkably enriching one. Before this, my resume was packed with fabulous previous employers including Subway, Ruby’s Diner–where I wore a short dress and nylons every day–and working for an old man who owned a horse stable. To be honest, I didn’t feel like I was ready to pop the protective college bubble, step out into the real world and start an actual career.

I believe that working for the Associated Students has given me skills that will be very useful for future occupations, as well as the ability to work at a job that challenges me intellectually. I encourage anyone who is even slightly interested to apply; you may be amazed where it takes you.