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.
I love this post! My first job in college was working at the campus bookstore. Then, I worked for our schools RecSports program (aka worked at the gym). I remember during exam time I would be so anxious at work because I felt like I could be studying, but looking back I’m glad I had that time away and at work with friends (I loved who I worked with) because I probably needed it away from the books! :)
Christina recently posted…Why I Don’t Count Calories
Sam @ See Sam Run says
I agree 100%. I think working in college adds extra responsibilities to your plate in a good way. Time management skills are a real thing, and so many people don’t develop them until they have to.
In college I took full time classes, worked every year after my first year, and participated in bands and greek life. Even now that I’m in grad school I still have a small job! Maybe I’m biased, but when people tell me they “dont’ have time” for something, I just have to say “there is always time if you make it!”
Sam @ See Sam Run recently posted…September: Things I’m Loving (Thinking Out Loud)
That last sentence….YES! I couldn’t agree more. I hate the idea that people (especially college students) are just SO busy that they can’t do something. If it matters to you you will find a way :)
Brie @ Lean, Clean, & Brie says
I worked my a part of my freshman year, and all of my sophomore and junior years of college. While it wasn’t easy by any means to add work into an already packed schedule, it taught me very valuable skills besides what I learned on the job, like time management skills. I think it is a really great experience to have a job while in college and get a feel for what life outside of school will be like, since school is all we’ve ever known so far in our lives.
Brie @ Lean, Clean, & Brie recently posted…Gear Up For College
Gretchen Gretchruns says
This was a great post and great to see that you’re trying to juggle the two worlds. And yes, you have to feed that lulu obsession ;) I never actually worked during college but I always worked during breaks and had paid internships during the summer. I was in the marching band at school and involved in student government..both of which are pretty much the hours of a part time job..so it would have been next to impossible to work on top of that! I just stayed frugal during the year and was thankful that I got scholarships to pay for college!
I didn’t actually go to college, but I work for my dad, and I do find the perks of having a regular job to be really good for me. It helps pay for a few extra trips here and there and jars of peanut butter. :D
Emily recently posted…Thinking Out Loud: What Makes Me Smile.
While I was also lucky and did not have to work to pay for my education during undergrad, classes, sorority, and running totally took over my life… but in graduate school I actually worked at Lululemon WOO and I TA’ed a few undergraduate biology classes which was a ton of fun. Mainly because it was great to teach material that I loved, and if no one came ot office hours I got paid to study :)
Jamie recently posted…TOLT September Vibes
Hayley @ Full of Life says
This is super interesting and something I didn’t think about while actually in college. If I were to do college again, I would have a part time job during it. I never had a job during school, only during summers, and it honestly made transitioning into the 9-5 world a harsh reality check. I never realized that having like 3 hours of class a day was hardly anything compared to an actual job. But I also filled my plate with a lot of other things like volunteer work and my sorority (which I would not do now either haha) so maybe I actually didn’t have the time.
Hayley @ Full of Life recently posted…Weekend Recap: Lots of Burgers and Movies
I was lucky to find a job in the athletic department and while that meant a few hours more inside the office, I also was able to work a number of the sporting events. Working those soccer games during my senior year was quite possibly one of the best experiences! That’s so awesome that you were able to align your jobs with your interests! It’s also nice to have a little extra cash :)
Kaitlin recently posted…Late Summer Random Thoughts
Sarah @pickyrunner says
This sounds like me two years ago. I was fortunate enough that I never needed to work in school. I worked my way through school because I chose to. It filled my schedule so I didn’t have too much free time and I preferred it that way. It was a good experience overall and it felt good to have more responsibilities, especially as someone who wasn’t into partying and things.
Sarah @pickyrunner recently posted…TOL: It’s Been Awhile
Rebecca @ Strength and Sunshine says
That’s the point of this time in our life. Take as many good opportunities and experiences as you can handle successfully so you further you knowledge, interest,s etc. and end up learning and see what IS right for you once you get out of school!
Rebecca @ Strength and Sunshine recently posted…The Little Things To Bring With You To College