Monday, November 1, 2010

Getting, keeping and managing a job as a first-year student

By Sherry Cao, CAPS Marketing Assistant

Earlier this summer, I delved into all things college with gusto—changing my Facebook network, buying pink shower caddies, painting my nails a sparkling shade of maroon. Such collegiate gusto also included e-mailing University of Chicago employers to secure a job as soon as possible—a move that landed me with the marketing assistant job at CAPS. I’ve been coming to work Monday, Wednesday and Fridays ever since O-week ended, but lately, I’ve been getting a lot of “hey Sherry—hook me up with a sweet job.” So, now that my fellow first-years have apparently settled into their collegiate niches and are itching for some money, I’d like to offer some words of wisdom* for said first-years:

0. As a precursor to everything else, you have to realize that work actually means work. The concept of getting a job and working 5-10 hours a week sounds do-able, and it is, but it requires mental (or physical) work for those 5-10 hours.

1. If you really want a job, stop thinking about it, and start looking. The student employment site—https://studentemployment.uchicago.edu/ has positions for work-study, non work-study and even off-campus jobs. Consequently, you should also know whether or not you have work-study (as I learned, apparently, term-time employment is not the same thing and does not qualify as work-study). If this still baffles you, call the Financial Aid office to clarify things.

2. Once you land your dream job (as a sandwich maker or some kind of assistant, perhaps), you should enjoy it. Like anything, approaching a job with a positive attitude will make the 5-10 hours of work you do a week much more enjoyable. Here at CAPS, I’ve met so many great people just doing my job—sitting at my desk, standing by the water cooler, working the student registration booth at our recent Career and Graduate and Professional School fairs. Be friendly and start conversations—work won’t even feel like work. Of course, it also helps if your job interests you in the first place.

3. But remember, you’re a student first. If you honestly overestimated your capability to balance a job and do well in school at the same time, don’t be afraid to talk to your employer and adviser about it. Especially on this campus, employers realize that student workers are students first and foremost, and they want you to do well in school. So, talking about changing around/cutting down on hours shouldn’t be stressful.

Even if it is a little big stressful, getting, keeping and managing a part-time job is definitely worth it. Having this job at CAPS has helped to give my personal schedule some structure, and it has also allowed me to do something enjoyable that I wouldn’t do in class (design cool posters). The paycheck at the end of the two weeks isn’t bad either.

*Not really. I’ve only been working for a month and a half, but I have learned a couple of things.

Have questions about getting a job during the school year? CAPS isn't just for those students looking for full-time positions! Make an appointment by calling (773) 702-7040.

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