Edited at 7 a.m. to admit that I didn’t mean for this post to publish today. Woke up to see I made a mistake. Let’s see if my rambling leads to anything (might not!).
Let me preface this post by saying that I’m very fortunate that I was never required to work throughout college; I’m not paying for my education.
Earlier this week I spoke with a sophomore on campus and she asked me how I “balanced working and studying.” There’s that dreaded balance word again. I hesitated to respond because, honestly, I don’t think much about it. I’m not curing cancer at work (or anything of that magnitude) and my hours are very manageable. Having a part-time job feels natural and I know tons of other students who work too. Of course, the conversation sparked some inspiration and reflection (how sappy of me) and today felt like the time to think and ramble out loud.
For some strange reason I feel like this could be a sensitive subject. Either you’re one of those “holier-than-thou” students who work or you’re a “regular” student who parties, studies and naps. It is only one or the other? Is one student better than the other? Can I be both? No, no and yes.
College is a grand ol’ time in your life that, if you have the luxury, can be used for freedom, exploration, growth and, oh, more freedom. You can more or less make your own schedule and prioritize what is important for you. Let me say that again…important for YOU. Those priorities freshman year will (and probably should) differ than those in junior or senior year. Freshman year I wanted to survive. Sophomore year I wanted do more. Enter: work.
I thought adding a job (or two) to my plate would be good because…
1) I do better when I have a full(ish) schedule. Too much downtime leads to homesickness and too much activity leads to a burn out. I’m all about that ish.
2) I wanted to gain experience in my fields of interest.
3) I needed to feed my Lululemon and expensive nut butter addictions.
4) I like structure and responsibility. Honestly, the amount of freedom in college can be intimidating (PARTIES! SKIP CLASS! NO RULES!) so just the idea of reporting to an adult made me feel more comfortable. Whatever works, right?
Fast-forward to now and my experience working in college has been (for the most part) very rewarding. Obviously I’m not curing cancer or working anything near 40 hours a week, but my jobs have been/are challenging enough to be meaningful additions to my schedule. If they weren’t, I wouldn’t have stuck with them.
The key to my good experience: the jobs I’ve had aligned with my interests. Or, at least that’s what I think has been the key. I’m well aware that not everyone has the luxury of being choosy with their jobs so I might not be the best example in that regard. However, getting a taste of what my future career might involve has been worth me giving up some free time. Sure it’s an extra 7-10 hours a week that I could be doing something else, but the benefits outweigh the naps. Because, let’s be real, that’s what I’d be doing.
To some degree I think my experience working through college might be similar to how I handle working after graduation. I’ve been able to recognize when I need/want more in my personal and professional life. It’s a very adult-like feeling to want to challenge yourself and take on extra responsibilities. Admittedly, I don’t always want to take on those responsibilities (read: the Senioritis that is very real right now), but there is still a part of me that wants to push my career (and life) comfort zone.
To end my rambling, here’s what I told the sophomore: if you feel you need or want more experience, especially in your field of interest, why not take advantage the career and counseling tools at your disposal? You can build your network, resume and even make a little extra spending money. If nothing else it might soften the harsh reality after graduation that, unfortunately, naps and Netflix aren’t (always) allowed at 2 p.m. on a Wednesday.