Hi, I’m Leon. I’m a Human Geography and Planning student at the Faculty of Spatial Sciences. After working as a student assistant at the Corporate Communication Department of the University and as a student assistant for bachelor courses at my faculty, I started working for the Geo Services Centre for Information Technology. We help students and researchers with maps, geographical data, and spatial analysis. Our organisation is flat, which implies that the student assistants have a large degree of freedom as long as they take responsibility and initiative. In week 5, you will learn more about what we do. As a student assistant, you are part of a large organisation.
In my example, the University of Groningen has more than 30,000 students, 6,500 employees, and 11 faculties. In such an organisation, your colleagues will expect that you take responsibility and show commitment. But how are these topics linked to an academic setting and organisation? What is expected of you and what are the main factors that influence these concepts? I will tell you more about this by focusing on three concepts– responsibility, commitments, and confidentiality. Let’s start with responsibility. As shown before in the professional framework, there is a difference in roles and tasks, which leads to differences in the level of responsibility students have when they are working for the University.
For example, as a student assistant who works at the help desk of the online learning environment, you have to answer the questions of the customers. But over time, senior colleagues might for example, find out that you are really skilled in presenting or web design. Your task might develop from answering emails and phone calls to being part of a project team on developing an e-learning page for the website. The level of responsibility, therefore, differs sometimes. What colleagues expect also strongly depends on the organisational culture. For instance, at the Geo Services Department where I work, it’s expected that everyone can work independently on most of the projects. And therefore, that they feel responsible for their work.
In a team like this, you have to take ownership of project that you like, but also consult other team members. The team should always have a say in who’s best suited for the new project. However, it could also be that an organisational or department is more top-down structured and that you don’t have the flexibility to freely decide what you want to do. We will tell you more about the differences in organisation structures at the end of this week. But for now, you have to be aware the differences in the context of the organisation also determine what is expected from you. The second concept I would like to mention is commitments.
Commitment of a team member or from you as a new employee is important to make the team a success. I, together with a lot of people here at the University of Groningen, am convinced that the student assistantship is not only about improving your resume or earning some extra pocket money. You are now part of a team with a goal, a task, and you are expected to deliver your work. You need an intrinsic motivation for the work you do when you want to show commitment. I really like what I’m doing. So from me, commitment and fun are two sides of the same coin. Commitment also contributes to job satisfaction and productivity.
I hardly do something different, like reading the newspaper, when I am at work. I can truly say that I’m committed to my work. The last concept, confidentiality, is certainly another important aspect of professional behaviour. For instance, at our department we work with confidential research data. We’re not allowed to share this data for other purposes than our project. But sometimes, you have to sign for this confidentiality and sometimes maybe not. Even if you haven’t signed for it, proper professional behaviour always includes being careful with sensitive information, like personal details, exam grades, and research data. Professional behaviour might seem like a grey area at some locations. And one can sometimes doubt if he or she is allowed to do specific tasks.
There is a simple solution for those situations. Just ask yourself, was I allowed to do or to know this information if I was not a student assistant but a regular student? If the answer is no, then you should consider if your actions are legitimate. In this video, I’ve explained three concepts of professional behaviour– responsibility, commitment, and confidentiality in the light of some teams and departments at our University. In the next step, I invite you to discuss these concepts in your own context. What is your drive in being a student assistant? And how does it affect your level of responsibility, commitment, and confidentiality? Or how would you like to give meaning to these concepts in a future student assistantship?