How to make the most of a college job

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With the cost of college education these days, it’s almost impossible to get through your time in school without some type of low paying menial job. I was not assigned a work study job but in December of my freshman year managed to get myself hired as a lifeguard at the campus Recreation Center. For a multitude of reasons I can say getting myself that job was one of the best decisions I ever made.

The first thing this job taught me was the value of and hard work and the benefits that come with it. My first semester working the only shift I could get was lifeguarding on Fridays at 6:30 am. I didn’t have classes on Fridays so this was a rough lesson for me in making a commitment and sticking to it. Picking shifts at the Bell Center is based upon seniority and a points system that rewards you for picking up sub shifts. I knew I did not want to get stuck with that crappy shift again so I worked my butt off to get my freshman-self up higher on the priority list for the following semester. I’ve continued to do that every semester and in the 3 years I’ve been there I have applied for and gotten to the highest management positon (Complex Manager) and in the number three position on the priority list for the entire 100+ person staff. As a complex manager I am responsible for a staff of up to 7 on duty recreation monitors and the $40 million Bell and Knapp Centers. In this position I also have had the unique opportunities of evaluating my employees and conducting interviews when hiring new employees both of which are rare opportunities for an on campus college job.

Second, I gained valuable contacts and learned more about workplace culture than I could ever have hoped to. My direct supervisors have come to be my most trusted advisors when it comes to things professionally related. Because I have proven myself to the organization by working so hard there my entire college career they trust me and my opinions. For instance, if they enacted a new policy that I didn’t agree with we could at least have a dialogue about it and I know my thoughts would be heard and taken into account. The Drake athletic director’s office is in the building where I work and after being around for four years now, she and I are on a first name basis. I’m confident that if I need help finding a job after I graduate I can waltz into her office and she’ll help me out to the best of her ability.

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Lastly, the cherry on top of me working at the Bell Center: I met my best friends. There’s a group of seven of us, all current Bell Center staff or alums whom I consider to be my best friends. I think it’s pretty amazing that we all became as close as we have because only one manager is on duty at a time so it’s not like we were “working together” all the time. Luckily the ones who have graduated have stayed in town and we make it a point to get together every couple weeks. I am so thankful to have had this job if only because I met these girls who have become so dear to me and have become my lifelong friends.

If you take away anything from this blog take this: make the best of whatever working situation you are in. Many work study and on campus jobs are incredibly boring and feel like a waste of time. I’m here to tell you that they’re not. Yes, lifeguarding at 6:30am on Friday mornings sucked but I got really good at singing along to the radio and critiquing people’s strokes. Stick out the boring job, making the most of it for a year and then apply for a management position. If you’re in a crappy job that has no opportunity for upward mobility then find a new job that allows you to at least apply for a management position with more responsibility. Don’t just come to work and then leave. Invest in your workplace and the people there – both the students and the professional staff members. Who knows, you could create for yourself a permanent position upon graduation. I have one semester left as a Drake Student worker and I will continue to be bettering myself and my workplace all the way to the end.

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