As a Career Management Advisor, I often talk to students about the skills they develop through internships and jobs, and how to utilize the experience and insight they gain. Here are some of the lessons I learned from my own high school/college jobs.
Be kind to people no matter what situation leads to them being in your office.
I remember realizing during a college summer working jobs as a legal secretary and at a doctor’s office that many of the people I was interacting with were experiencing an incredibly stressful time in their lives, and mindfulness of that is important. Student affairs practitioners are often drawn to the field because it’s an opportunity to help others. Still, it can be easy to get into a routine and forget about what it’s like to be a student navigating the college experience, or to recognize that many students have a very different background and experience than you. What may be your 15th judicial hearing of the week or what seems like the 800th roommate conflict are interactions that can have incredible ripple effects on the college students, and might be the difference between them feeling as though they are simply a number at the institution or knowing they matter.
Even the best job will have parts that aren’t fun.
There are numerous articles about finding work that is fulfilling, but having appropriate expectations of what that will look like is important. Even if you absolutely love what you do, there will always be aspects of your job that take more motivation to accomplish. Fortunately, my prior jobs such as working the night shift at a junk mail factory, cleaning countless toilets at an industrial center, rolling pretzel dogs next to a hot oven, dropping a lot of crackers during my week at a cracker factory, and trying to manage the register/gas pumps/lottery tickets at a combo gas station/market/Dunkin Donuts remind me that I’m incredibly fortunate to now have work that is meaningful and that doesn’t make me look at the clock every 5 minutes waiting for the day to end. Nothing gives perspective like having had to hand-close 500 envelopes because you forgot to re-fill the water sealer on your mail-stuffing machine.
Who you work with makes a huge difference.
In addition to the jobs previously mentioned, I’ve been a babysitter, camp counselor, photography re-toucher, legal secretary, admin for a physical therapist, typist for a college president, resident assistant, applied behavioral analysis therapist, psychiatric rehabilitation associate, case manager, and resident director. Regardless of the actual position, who I worked with impacted my ability to do a good job. In a field like student affairs it is critical to have trusted colleagues you can turn to for advice, so be mindful of developing and maintaining strong working relationships with co-workers. And also, no matter who you work with, I really don’t recommend working the night shift at a factory that produces mass credit card offers. Unless you’re really good at hand sealing envelopes.
This post is part of our #SACareer series, addressing careers in student affairs, careers outside of student affairs, and the work of career services professionals. Read more about the series in Jake Nelko’s intro post. Each post is a contribution by a member or friend of the Commission for Career Services from ACPA. Our organization exists to benefit the careers of career services professionals, student affairs professionals, and anyone supporting students in the career endeavors. For more information about how to get involved with the Commission for Career Services or the #SACareer blog series, contact Jake Nelko at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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