In both high school and college, many students work hourly part-time jobs to earn money. During the school year, work hours can be scheduled around classes and extracurriculars; college students who work for employers on campus may have extra flexibility when it comes to scheduling, because campus employers understand that classes may not be scheduled at the same time each day, unlike in high school. In the summer, students may take on more work hours since classes aren’t in session.
Your high school and college jobs may not be interesting. Maybe you work at the local sandwich store. Maybe you seat guests at the baseball stadium. Maybe your job is to make sure that all of the printers on campus stay fully stocked with ink and paper. Chance are you’re not saving the world… yet. But whether you work full- or part-time, and whether or not your job is particularly interesting or meaningful, there are some lessons to be learned.
- Time management: Although you learn some of this skill by doing homework, studying for tests, and balancing your class load with extracurriculars, a job forces you to do it in different ways. Instead of it only being yourself that you’re accountable to, the time you spend being productive (or not productive) now has an effect on your coworkers and the business as a whole. It can be tricky to figure out how you’re going to construct four ice cream cakes, make 20 waffle cones, restock ice cream, and serve customers all in the next hour—I say this from personal experience from my days working in an ice cream shop in high school—but somehow you’ve got to get it done. By staying focused, completing tasks efficiently, and working together with your coworkers, you can do more than you realize.
- Collaboration: Speaking of working together with coworkers… there will be some you like, and some you don’t like. Additionally, there will be some supervisors whom you prefer over others. However, it is important for you to learn how to work with different people, even if you personally don’t get along with them. This ability to work with others will help you in your education as well as your career.
- Money management: Even if you don’t end up handling money in your job, you will need to open a bank account in which to deposit your paychecks and manage the money you earn. Although most of your expenses may still be covered by your parents, scholarships, or student loans, it’s never too early to start learning about budgeting. If you pay some of your own bills, like insurance for your car, for some of your own meals, and/or for clothes, you should set amounts to spend and save each month.
How to handle challenges: Unexpected schedule changes, the enactment of new policies, and changes in routines will undoubtedly happen. Learning how to work through these scenarios will be invaluable experience, as you’ll continue to encounter challenges like these throughout your life.
- Communication skills: Effective and professional communication will be the key to collaboration, handling challenges, and sometimes even time management. Communicating with others in a work environment is completely different from how you communicate with your friends or family. You’ll need to be able to clearly express what you need in a calm and respectful manner, and consider the other person’s perspective. Additionally, you’ll need to be able to listen to what they have to say, even if it is unpleasant for you. You have to be able to take “no” as an answer without getting angry or losing control of your emotions.
- Handling criticism: This can be difficult even as an adult, but your ability to handle (or not handle) criticism can significantly impact how your supervisors view you as an employee. Everyone has flaws and weaknesses. Accepting that you are not perfect and working to improve the areas that you can makes you a valuable employee. However, employees who become defensive and upset when supervisors attempt to discuss their performance are not viewed positively. The ability to handle criticism is a sign of maturity.
Time (and stress) management, communication, and the ability to tackle whatever is thrown at you in the workplace are all skills that will serve you well in the future. You may not need to know how to construct the perfect ice cream cone or memorize what types of printers take what types of ink in the future, but the soft skills that you learn from working any job—even just an after school gig in high school—will stick with you!