Every Tuesday and Thursday, I work the front desk in the Neumaier Apartments to pick up a little (and I mean little) extra cash.
I fill out the desk log, I check the email, and I listen to my Bayside Pandora station; basically, I do my grad assistant job with a different title.
But the difference between the two jobs is that while I help residents in both, the residents of the building are more likely to ask me for help with something while I’m sitting behind the front desk rather than when I’m sitting in my office doing the exact same thing.
I mean, it seems obvious as to why it happens (or at least to me). Offices generally mean that the person who is sitting inside of them is important or might be difficult to talk to. It doesn’t matter that the person sitting behind the desk while the door is open is looking at pictures of cats or listening to Fall Out Boy pumping through their speakers, what matters is that they’re probably “the man” or aren’t the most welcoming of people.
But at the front desk of the same building, with the same cat pictures, and the same band playing, it’s different. Suddenly, residents aren’t afraid to talk to me. They ask every question that they need to ask and then some. I’ve also noticed over the past six years that the front desk of any residence hall on campus is a sort of communal space where everyone feels safe and knows that they will have at least one person to talk to if they need it. With the exception of the Neumaier desk, I rarely see the desk attendant not talking to someone else, even if that someone else is another RA.
The point is: If I, as a Housing professional, want the residents in my hall to talk to me, I should be aware of where I’m placing myself and remember that students will only want to talk to me if I seem like a real person. And I should also let them pet my cat. Because apparently that makes them happy. 🙂
So now I challenge you all to think about the persona that you may be giving off to the people around you that you most definitely aren’t trying to be. Because even something silly like a desk in an office is enough to make someone too nervous to talk to you.