Support staff stars Alison Gray and Bonnie Campbell kick off the year with a To Do list for support staff members on how to jump start their careers.

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1. Job description

Do you have one? Is it current? Dust it off and check it out. We all like to help out as needed so we often stray outside the description in some of the work we do. But keep in mind what you’re actually meant to be doing and if you’re hardly ever doing it, might be time for a new job description.

2. Relationships and advocacy

How strong is your relationship with your manager, the senior management team or the principal? Are you comfortable to talk with them? Do they recognise what you do? Build the relationships now so everyone knows support staff are part of the team.

3. New agreement

Check out the new collective agreement at  http://www.nzei.org.nz/AgreementDoc/SUPP.pdf. It represents a move toward core job descriptors.

4. Expected outcome

Understand your job description. Does it have an “expected outcome”? The outcome could be a measurement of your success or a pathway to change that’s needed to achieve success. Arriving at an expected outcome can give the feeling of success.

5. Job creep

Look at your job description in the light of your agreed hours. Can you do your job in the agreed hours? Decide whether or not you want to do “free hours”. If you are doing extra hours, be sure it is noted, as a record of your dedication – this can be used to update your job description at appraisal time.

6. Quality assured PD

The new collective agreement has core descriptors that state you will be paid for “qualifications”. But it can be hard to find professional development that counts as a qualification. Track it down. Talk with your principal. Will the school pay? Investigate what polytechs and universities have to offer. Inquire at the Ministry of Education. Talk with other support staff members at your local NZEI branch meeting or area council.

7. Take control

Take control of your professionalism. This is about you – not about you working for the school. It’s about you valuing what you do. You support New Zealand’s children, including some of the most vulnerable, in our education system. Stand tall. Be proud.

8. Appraisal as advocacy

Do you have a regular appraisal? You should! Having an appraisal is another way of feeding back the amazing things you do. It’s not a thing to be feared, but a way to let your manager know what’s working and what’s not.

9. Be involved

NZEI branch meetings and area councils give you a great chance to meet with other educators and find out what’s going on. There are fun activities and PD. Think about becoming the NZEI Worksite Rep. You can make a difference.

10. Get advice

Unclear about any of the above? Get some advice. Talk to senior leaders in your school – they can help strengthen your knowledge of the students you work with.Talk to other support staff members or the WSR. Ring the NZEI helpline” 0800 693 443. Go to your local NZEI branch meeting or area council.