The other day I listed all the jobs I held in high school and detailed what I learned from them. Today I want to continue this series by sharing the jobs I held while in college.
As a freshman, I worked in the library as part of a work-study program. It was a simple job and for only eight hours a week. I didn’t get any lasting impressions/benefits from it, though it was the first job where I got paid for using more brains than brawn.
The next three years, I worked as a staff assistant, a scholastic-based assistantship, in the alumni office for an average of 15 hours a week. This was one of my “break-through” jobs because it taught me so much. For instance, I:
- Discovered that good performance gets rewarded. I was only eligible for this position because I had high grades my first semester as a freshman, which was enough to get me considered for this spot.
- Learned that who you know can account for as much as what you’ve done. The head of the office had once been in the fraternity that I had just joined. We were “brothers”, so I gained an advantage over the other candidates.
- Luck plays a huge role in job success. It just so happened that their last staff assistant was graduating and they wanted to hire someone that would work with them for several years (versus getting a new person every year.) I just so happened to have three years of eligibility left, something the other candidates did not.
- Sometimes you get pleasantly surprised. The alumni director, despite the fact that he was a “brother”, was a bit difficult for most people to get along with. He was outwardly gruff and strange in many of his personal habits. But somehow we hit it off. I found out he had been a successful sales and marketing executive for a Fortune 500 company. I learned so much working for him for three years — it was probably more valuable than my college education. He also introduced me to what eventually became my profession (marketing), altered the course of my career, and was probably one of the most influential people in my life.
- Learned how to become a leader and do the “impossible.” I went to a small, private college that relied heavily on alumni contributions, and that’s what the office did — get alumni to give to the college. My job was to get extra money from the STUDENTS! Yikes! Poor, struggling students! Yet under the direction of my mentor, I was able to think past the “impossible”, develop a workable plan, and execute the plan with success. A year after I started we had a new intercom system in our student center paid for by extra donations from students.
In the summers I worked at the same grocery store that I talked about the other day, so there’s nothing new to add there.
During my junior year in school, I took an internship with a local lawyer. I worked eight hours a week in his office, mostly looking up old law cases that he could use for trials/arguments and writing up a summary of them. I learned one HUGE lesson from this job: I hated what lawyers did (for the most part). This was vital because up to that time I had planned on going to law school. But after this I switched directions and with the help of the alumni director got turned on to marketing — which has been a perfect career for me. This is one reason I’m such a supporter of internships — they not only give you some good experience that you can put on your resume, but they also let you discover whether or not you really like the field you’re working in. For a 20-year-old, those are two GIGANTIC benefits!
The one other job I held while in college was that I spent the summer of my junior year (I would be a senior that fall) in Washington, DC working for the federal government (executive branch) as an intern. It was a very enlightening experience and I got the following from it:
- You can get paid a decent salary working for the government for not doing much.
- It’s REALLY who you know not what you know when it comes to working for the government.
- I never wanted to work for the government in my later, professional life.
- I liked DC a lot. Great place to visit (I lived in the city and rode the Metro everywhere) but I wouldn’t want to live there.
- You can get by on virtually nothing when you’re young. I ate hot dogs and beans and lived much of the time in a youth hostel. I banked most of my salary. It was a wonderful thing.
Well, that’s it for this round. Next in the series is My Jobs, Graduate School.