Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A different way to earn money on campus

Today, most students have to work while going to college. However, for many students, that work can get in the way of their ability to engage in the college experience and take advantage of all the opportunities - opportunities that are necessary to win scholarships.

So what do you do?

On campus jobs are a really great way to go because you are able to stay on campus longer and engage with your college experience even when you are working. However, because there are so many students on campus who would love an on campus job, they are competitive. 

While I still highly recommend getting to know people and applying for on campus jobs at your college, there is also another alternative I've been learning a lot about lately - campus ambassador programs

Companies like Google, Apple, Microsoft, American Eagle, and Victoria's Secret employ college students to share their products, hold events, and give away free stuff on campus in exchange for pay and, in some cases, free stuff and incentives for you. 

I actually consult with a wonderful student ambassador program with Pearson (the leading education services company), where students are paid to be on campus to help teach students how to get the most out of their new learning materials (such as Pearson's MyMathLabthrough class presentations and tutoring hours. These student ambassadors get to know more people on campus, earn money to help them in school, build connections and meet mentors within the company, and gain some really great professional experience. This doesn't always happen while working at a fast-food restaurant in college. 

When I first heard about these paid ambassador programs they sounded too good to be true. But now that I've gotten to know at least the Pearson program up close and personal, I can say some of these programs are really great opportunities.

Pearson's program is very service-oriented and learning-centered, which is why I really love working with them. While some of the more branded ambassador positions can get a little too marketing-heavy on the college campus, others really do seem to add value to to the students and the campus culture (e.g. Google's also seems like a great one).

The more research I've done, the more I wished I had known about some of these opportunities in college.  

So I wanted to share them with you, and I thought the best way to do that would be through students who have actually had the experience. 

Below are interviews with two incredible students: Melissa, who was a campus ambassador for Barnes & Noble, and Kya who was a campus ambassador for General Mills. They share an inside look at what these programs are all about, and give some great tips on how you can take advantage of these employment opportunities too if interested. 

College: George Mason University
Major: Communication

How did you learn about the B&N Ambassador program and how did you apply? Last summer, on a rainy day, I remember looking at internships and browsing through Facebook. I followed RepNation, which enables individual consumers to get involved with brands they love and discover new products and services. RepNation members gain access to participate in surveys and marketing campaigns from many of the leading and hottest new brands in the world. I saw opportunities to apply, and George Mason University was a candidate. I applied for the Barnes & Noble Ambassador program online, filled out an application, and sent my resume. I got an email back saying they would like to have a second phone interview. I interviewed got another email back saying they were impressed and would like me to have a third interview and speak with the manager. Finally, after three interviews, I got an email back saying, “Congratulations!.”

What was B&N's main goal in having a campus ambassador program?
B&N’s main goal in a having a campus ambassador program is to promote the bookstore and show how it serves to be an academic ally for students. Overall, our main goal was to change the perceptions students had about the bookstore, from being a so-called “rip-off,” to an “on-campus ally.” My performance was evaluated by completing bi-weekly reports reporting what we did over the course of the 2 week span, questions or comments received, presentations we gave, online media-sharing through Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, etc, marketing materials handed out, events we planned, and store manager communication. We also had weekly status calls with other ambassadors, hearing about current updates and other students' ideas. A majority of the work was to plan two large-scale events during mid-terms and finals each semester and give away free stuff to build awareness/loyalty to the brand. The online sharing also gave students the opportunity to check out how to buy/rent textbooks and how to go about the buyback process.

What was your favorite part about working with the B&N Campus Ambassador program? My favorite part working with the B&N Campus Ambassador program was being a “campus celebrity” at George Mason University. I networked and met a huge number of people. Even connecting with fellow ambassadors from different schools over the country was a great experience. I also learned what it took to organize an event by myself. Planning an event that students would like, even during a stressful time, really was great. As much hard work as it required, it was nice to see how much students really appreciated the free stuff/food at events and how much they enjoyed being able to take a breather from studying. People also contacted me with any questions or concerns, which I thought was great. We had a freshman outreach program as well where freshman contacted me about purchasing textbooks for the fall. I was really proud to promote and give off a positive image of the bookstore to all George Mason University students and beyond.

What are the benefits of being involved as a campus ambassador?
The benefits of being involved as a campus ambassador are vast. I started in late August as an ambassador and have already gotten other opportunities by being an ambassador. Barnes & Noble is teamed up with an online blog called The College Juice, which is written by students for students. I even got one of my articles published on it! Mr.Youth (the company that runs RepNation) is also an up and coming marketing firm and has a great name for itself. HireClix, a business out of Massachusetts saw that I worked for Mr.Youth and wanted me to help them out at a seminar when they came to my school to help check people into an event they were doing on eventbrite. I networked with them afterwards as well. Being an ambassador has led me to other opportunities I couldn’t have done without being involved. And now on campus I am very well-known. I’ve learned so much over a short period of time. I learned more about what students want, how to network and contact people, and I’ve truly grown as a person this year. And knowing that I am spreading the word about Barnes & Noble is an honor.

What do you think companies are looking for when deciding what kinds of students to hire? When companies are looking to hire students, I feel the first thing they look at is if one is extremely involved. You need to be an all-around student. You may have a 4.0 GPA, but they are going to be looking for more.  Extracurriculars mean the most. I have two other jobs on campus, am a member of a sorority, hold a leadership position, and am a member of various organizations. I feel as though they want to see how creative you are and how you stand out from the crowd.

What advice do you have for students considering a campus ambassador program? Be driven. It is A LOT of hard-work, but is completely worth it. You have to be willing to be creative, answer people’s questions, and send a positive image to students. It is more effort than I thought when I first applied, but I wouldn’t change a thing. If you are up for a good challenge, want to meet people, and have it on your resume, it is a great opportunity while in school, and leads you to even better opportunities in the long-run!

College: The University of Texas at Austin
Major: Management Information Systems

How did you learn about the General Mills Campus Ambassador program and how did you apply? I learned about the General Mills Sales Division Campus Ambassador Program at a career fair put on the the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin. The application involved submitting my resume and then completing an online information sheet, followed by multiple interviews.

What was General Mills main goal in having a campus ambassador program? The Campus Ambassador's purpose is to act as a constant presence on campus for the recruiting team to build awareness about positions available and to act as a liaison with the various student organizations for the company. I worked under one of the recruiters to develop plans for each semester and make sure everything was set when they would be on campus themselves. My performance was evaluated on an informal basis with my supervisor, but with the understanding that the Campus Ambassador position could lead to an internship and possibly a full time position if it was a fit for both General Mills and myself.

What was your favorite part about working with the GMI Campus Ambassador program? My favorite part was being able to see the recruiting process from the recruiter's standpoint. It gave me much more confidence in interacting with companies on campus and also in interviews. I also, of course, loved the samples of General Mills products I got and sharing about positions with fellow students...many had no idea General Mills was recruiting on campus and how great the opportunities were with them!

What were some of the tasks you did during the week for the GMI Campus ambassador program? In general, I would be emailing with student organizations of interest to General Mills on campus to set up presentation opportunities, give presentations about General Mills ranging from 5 minutes to 30 minutes, and helping the recruiters on weeks they were on campus.

What are the benefits of being involved as a campus ambassador? Besides being paid a generous hourly rate, as a Campus Ambassador I received General Mills products and an incredible opportunity to further develop my project and event management skills, my presentation skills, and also interact with recruiters and other members of the General Mills Sales Division.

What do you think companies are looking for when deciding what kinds of students to hire? In addition to having a decent GPA (3.0 or higher generally), companies are looking for people with great communication skills, a willingness to work on a team, motivation and most of all passion and fit. It is incredible how many students will apply for a position without truly being interested and passionate about the company or the position. That immediately shows and says you probably won't be a great fit with the culture and the company.

What direct benefits do you feel you received from being a part of the GM campus ambassador program? Directly, I obtained an internship and now a full-time position with General Mills Sales Division as a Business Management Associate from my work as a Campus Ambassador. I also have become much more comfortable in my presentation skills and in interacting with business professionals, both of which are invaluable.

What advice do you have for students considering a campus ambassador program? If you are self-motivated, a "get stuff done" personality with a genuine interest in the company and love sharing information, ambassador programs would be a great fit. It is an incredible opportunity to have in college! Even if an ambassador program isn't for you, I would highly recommend getting involved with some sort of job or volunteer work during your college years as it shows employers you are well rounded and can manage your time well to be able to succeed in both academics and in extracurriculars. Most of all, find something you are passionate about! If you are happy, you will want to do your job, and do it well.

Melissa and Kya, I cannot thank you enough for sharing your experiences with me and my readers! What great insight and advice. I hope you all enjoyed that as much as I did :)

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