This post is brought to you by the Training Committee. Please welcome Erika Kampschnieder – Mid-Plains Community College, Nebraska
Congratulations! You’ve landed your dream job that you probably never realized was a dream of yours. So now that you are days, weeks, or months into this new role you may be thinking, “What did I get myself into, and how do I escape???”
Don’t worry, we’ve all been there and had those same thoughts, most of us probably still have those thoughts occasionally. The profession we’ve chosen is stressful, full of regulations, at times overwhelming, and most importantly – REWARDING. As a two year “veteran” of financial aid (I say veteran lightly, as I consider myself very much a newbie with a lot to learn), I have found a few things that have helped me be successful & also have ideas for any supervisors that may be wondering how to help their rookies succeed.
Welcome to the mind BOGGLEing world of financial aid
CONNECT 4 steps to get yourself from brand new to quasi-confident
Learn your role with help from your team. In my office we all work on a little bit of everything, and let me tell you throughout my first week or two I was terrified when I realized how much I was going to need to learn in a short amount of time. One of the best ways to learn how to perform this job is to actually perform the job. Reading about policies and regulations is great, but I highly recommend a training path that flows through four stages from shadowing, to working with “training wheels” on, working on your own but having someone review what you’ve done, and finally working independently and only asking for help when you need it. Shadowing someone allows you to see what it is you’ll be doing, the “training wheels” allow you to get familiar with the system while someone directly supervises you, and small bits of independence afterwards will help you build confidence.
Knowing the resources available to you can be tHought of as a TRIVIAL PURSUIT
My director once said “Financial aid isn’t always knowing how to handle every situation, it’s knowing that there is something written somewhere & being able to find that information.” This next piece of advice may be one of the most boring training methods, but it is SO valuable down the road. Read as many training materials as you can find. One of the first texts I read was the Application and Verification Guide from IFAP, since it most closely related to the things I would be working on right away. It is a bit of a long read and very overwhelming when you are just starting out, but it also helps you make sense of the things you see as you are shadowing. Other helpful sources to read from include NASFAA U study guides, Dear Colleague letters, the NASFAA News daily email feed, and your school’s policy handbook. Reading or skimming these documents helps you familiarize yourself with common words and acronyms used in this field as well as show you where you can find answers when you run into questions down the road.
Why SCRABBLE for answers when you are unsure of what to do, your team is here to help
Ask questions and don’t apologize for any uncertainty you may have. Everyone has been new to this world before, so we understand exactly how challenging it can be and how each question you ask seems to spiral into three more. As someone that has helped train two members of our team, I would rather have a new employee ask a million questions and learn how to do things correctly than fix a lot of mistakes later on. That being said, as you learn and grow in your role, try to research your questions to find the answer on your own first. Then, if you still feel uncertain, you can always ask someone on your team to confirm that what you found is correct. This will help what you learn stick to memory and impress your new coworkers.
Don’t use your CRANIUM more than you need to, find ways to simplify your tasks
Make step-by-step guides you can follow for assistance with your job duties – include responsibilities you perform regularly as well as those that you don’t see quite as often, but still require consistency in resolution. Our team has created how-to lists for many of our processes allowing us to provide timely service and accurate results. Our audit findings have significantly improved each year, and my personal opinion is that part of the credit has to be given to these instruction sheets. Just as an example, we’ve created guides for packaging, verification, clearing unusual enrollment history, processing documents as they are received, SAP processing, and several others.
Creating a Winning Team
HI-HO CHERRY-O, it’s off to train your staff you go.
New staff members have many concerns about what expectations there are for them, how to do their job, and who to turn to for guidance. It is especially beneficial for newbies to have some extra attention from their supervisor in the first few weeks, just to get their training off on the right track. While having the whole team available for assistance is wonderful, it may be easier to trust that what you are being told is 100% correct if the information is coming from your boss. Continued follow-up throughout the training process can also help reassure a new employee that what they are doing is valuable and that they have been a big asset to the team so far.
PERFECTION won’t happen overnight, give your new hires feedback on how they’re doing so far
All employees, new or old, can appreciate honest feedback from their boss. It is always good to hear from someone else what your strengths are but also to know how you can improve. You cannot expect your staff to get it right if you don’t tell them what they are getting wrong. Although peer review is a wonderful tool, one-on-one time with your employees is not only necessary, but can help boost confidence in the various roles your team members play.
Let your Noobs take RISKs and try something new
It can be very scary watching someone brand new take the reins for the first time, especially if their system of completing tasks doesn’t match yours. Let your newbies take risks and figure out their own way of performing job duties. If your new hire is going to be successful in their job, they will need to figure out what works for them and what doesn’t. An added bonus of letting them find their own system is the potential for innovative new ways of completing the job. Just be sure to monitor their work until you are confident that they know their role and how to successfully perform the job.
Did you see it? This blog contains puzzle #2 from the RMASFAA Training Committee series. Hint: the puzzle is related to one of the states in our region.
Please read the blog, solve the puzzle, and submit your answer via email with the subject line “RMASFAA Puzzle #2” to Ashlee.firstname.lastname@example.org before April 8 to be entered into the drawing for a prize. Remember, collect all correct answers to all 8 puzzles throughout our training series this year to solve the final puzzle and be entered to win the big prize and be crowned “RMASFAA Training Committee Grand Champion Game Master”!
To find puzzle #1, please go view the previously recorded “Chutes and Ladders of Year-Round Pell” Webinar and look for your other 6 chances to enter in our upcoming blog posts and webinars!