Navigating an Assistantship AND a Part-Time Job

One year ago, I was a first year student seeking out an internship at the SDA Internship and Networking Fair. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous and didn’t need a 20 minute pep talk from a continuing student before I even approached a single table. Yep, that was me- a nervous, anxious wreck. The first table I went up to was Highline Community College where they were promoting an advising internship. I knew going in to the fair that I was specifically seeking out an internship at a community college or in advising, so this one was exactly what I was looking for.  Kevin, the representative from Highline, was a previous high school counselor, like myself, and that grain of similarity sparked a great conversation between us.  I walked around the room that day and gathered a plethora of information and business cards, but I only reached out to Highline in the end. I interviewed with them not too long after the fair in March and they wanted me to start right away. Unfortunately I was unable to do that due to an internship I was committed to at Seattle U. At that point, I thought that might be the end of that conversation.

A couple of months later, the Director of Educational Planning called me and asked if I was still looking for an internship opportunity. I enthusiastically replied yes! During our conversation, she informed me that not only were they interested in hosting me as an intern but a part time position had opened up and she wanted me to apply. Nervous, excited, and completely unsure if I was qualified or not, I went for it. After a ½ day interview with various panels as well as giving a presentation, I was offered the position. I felt completely blessed that I was not only going to be receiving internship credit and hours, but was going to be paid too!

I started working at Highline in the Educational Planning and Advising office in the summer time as an Academic Advisor, working about 30 hours a week. Because I had no experience working at a community college, I had a lot to learn from the various transfer and professional-technical degree offerings and specific requirements. Highline is the most diverse college in the state of Washington and I was excited to work with a diverse population of students. After engaging in a series of trainings, shadowing, and informational interviews with various professionals across campus, I was ready to advise on my own. It was tough at first. Would I remember all of the information I just learned? What if I gave students the wrong information? How can I possibly remember all of the requirements for the Nursing program? I had a million doubts, but the supportive staff assured me that it would click eventually.  And sure enough, it did.

In addition to advising, I also was able to participate and eventually facilitate Highline’s new student orientation sessions. As you can imagine, orientation looks very different at a community college and Highline is one of the few community colleges that requires new students to attend orientation. Over the summer, we were conducting 2-3 orientation sessions per week and I had a major role in the facilitation and registration portions. One of my greatest accomplishments with Highline was presenting at the first ever Running Start Student Success Orientation on “Success in Online Classes”.  Running Start is a unique population of students that we don’t talk about in the SDA program. Running Start is a program for high school juniors and seniors which allows them to concurrently take college and high school classes that meet their high school graduation requirements (for free too!). Highline has a fantastic RS program with approximately 1000 students enrolled this year.

Since starting in the summer, I have advised Running Start students, displaced workers, veterans, international students, etc. The list goes on and on and the truth is, I never know who I am going to meet with in any given advising session. Every student is so different from the last in so many ways and I love that.

Once class started back up again in the fall, I decided to stay at Highline and give working two jobs a try. During Fall Quarter I was working at my GAship 3 days a week and at Highline 2 days a week, plus wrapping up 2 internships presentations and going to class twice a week. That was a major transition and I was exhausted after about two weeks in to the quarter. I did not anticipate how busy I would be and how much work it all was.  Reflecting back, one of the toughest things was moving through two very different roles at two very different institutions. I felt like I had to switch my brain on and off depending on what role I was in.  At Seattle U, I work in recreation and manage a group of 7 URec student leaders. This group of students plans internal events for students which include workshops, professional development opportunities, service-learning and we have a strong focus is on community building since there are 100+ students who work for URec. At Highline, my focus is advising new students on transfer and professional-technical programs and helping them register for the right courses. I rarely see the same student twice and our interactions last between 10-30 minutes.

Now, that I have been working full time between the two jobs for 5 month months, I have gotten used to juggling multiple roles. It has been a wonderful experience being able to engage in two very different areas of student affairs at two institutional types for this long during my last year in this grad program. From this experience, I have learned I have a strong passion for advising, working one on one with students, and building relationships with them.  Additionally, I can really see myself working at either institutional type after I graduate which will open up my options as I engage in the job search. I will be able to approach new opportunities with a wider range of higher education experience which –fingers crossed- makes me a competitive candidate.

**If anyone is interested in speaking to me more about my experience working at a community college, in advising, university recreation, working two jobs, or anything else for that matter, I am more than happy to share my experience with you. Just send me an email-

– Katie Pinney


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