The idea of getting an on-campus job did not occur to me until as late as my second semester of college. Now as I look back at the last two years of "employment" at Lycoming College and my seven different positions (sounding like a job-hopper already, aren't I?), I am glad I did not start any later. These jobs have benefited me in various ways, even though some of them might not necessarily coincide with my future paths.
I know every student works for different reasons, but these below have kept me motivated so far:
1 — A source of financial aid
I still remember when I got my first job as a teacher assistant for the Math department. I had some personal expenses to cover but did not want to use my parents' money (and I happened to be somewhat decent at Math). I started going to recitations to assist my professor and eventually setting up private tutoring sessions with students in need. The Academic Resources Center (ARC) then hired me as a subject tutor, hence my second job. Those were my first-ever dollars earned, and I think I spent them on an Old Navy sweater.
From a financial viewpoint, on-campus jobs do not produce much in relation to a college student's tuition and fees (or debts!). They are nonetheless a source of income that may help ease some struggles in our daily life: gas refuel, pizzas after midnight, etc.
2 — Gaining knowledge and transferable skills
Although I started out working on campus to help finance my daily life in the United States, I soon realized that it also gave me experiences beyond the classroom. For instance, my first two jobs, with their teaching nature, made me more patient as well as capable of seeing and presenting a problem from multiple perspectives. Then my one year as a Resident Assistant -arguably one of my most memorable experiences- taught me invaluable lessons concerning various topics, such as micro-aggression, conflict resolution, etc. At another point, I found myself conducting surveys and developing marketing content for the Study Abroad office (now a part of the Center of Enhanced Academic Experience).
A relatively small institution, Lycoming College offers many employment opportunities for students, through which one may gain useful knowledge and develop various skill sets: communication, teamwork, problem solving, leadership - to name but a few.
3 — Improving time management
To be honest, I hardly cared about managing my time prior to college. At present, I find myself constantly juggling between my study, jobs, plans, and my personal life. Although stressed at times, I know this is preparing me -as it can also prepare you- for the years to come after graduation. I am still trying to manage my time better every day, and even am inclined to talk about time management (to the point of writing a whole article on it).
4 — Developing professionalism
I started thinking about professionalism after one time getting admonished by my supervisor. Even though it is embarrassing as I look back now, for the sake of demonstration (as much as entertainment) I will share this regretful experience. One day roughly two years ago I woke up at 9 o'clock and realized that I was late for work. My shift started at 8 and ended around 11, so I thought I would just take a day off (people close to me then would know that I'd rather not show up than be late). However, I did not notify my advisor, thinking that nobody would actually care or even notice if I was absent (so naive). No, of course people cared. And yes, I was that no-show person (sigh!!). I wished there was a hole I could jump into, or so I wished. Feel free to imagine the rest of the story, but anyhow, I could never forget when my supervisor brought the issue up later.
The lesson for me was that when I miss something that concerns other people, even if unintentionally, the sooner I notify them the better it is. This may be a silly example, but hopefully it gets the point through: when we work for the professional, we learn to be professional. Moreover, when we are still in college, mistakes like this don't always cost us our job, as long as we learn from them. In a real-life situation, I might have been laid off for a while.
College is also a good place to develop a work ethic - which I think is crucial and thus would like to discuss in a future article.
5 — Exploring career paths
If your future plan is set in stone then good, look for experiences that lead to your goals. If, however, you have even a tiny bit of doubt, working in college might help you figure out the right path. This is especially true for students who have several interests, including me. For example, I like math and dare say I can be good at math, but working as a tutor and teacher assistant showed me that I was not particularly passionate about researching or teaching it. Similarly, I enjoy community planning and development, but based on my experience as a Resident Assistant, I do not intend to work in public affairs. As I have mentioned before, not every job I took in college coincided with my future career paths, and you should expect the same. These seemingly irrelevant jobs, nonetheless, can help you explore your true strengths and passions. Reflecting upon the pluses and minuses of each position, you may gain a deeper understanding of your preferences, and also a better idea of what you might want to do in the future.
Apart from wages, the most basic and tangible benefit, jobs on campus can prepare students with valuable work experience for the future. You may have noticed that I did not mention connections, whose importance many people emphasize. I simply do not think highly of it.
Having been through several positions, I believe that every student job offers something to learn. If you are not going to college with a full-ride, definitely consider working during these four years. In fact, even if college is paid for, why not still get a job? After all, we don't always find someone (like our college) willing to pay us to learn.
To learn more about the jobs on campus, pay us a visit and ask your tour guide! Aside from working in admissions, they often have other jobs as well, such as working as resident assistants, in the library, or as student tutors.