This week on 10 Things I Learned…
Just kidding, it’s a complete coincidence these are going to post a week apart.
I have been ‘working’ since I was a sophomore in high school, however I had my first real job right after my junior year. I’ve been working multiple jobs and continuing my education since I started college so this is my list of 10 Things I Learned while working and taking classes.
I don’t know if this list will actually help anyone but I want you to know that you’re not alone in the quest to find the perfect balance between work and school, to find the right way to say no when people are asking for too much. Also, some people need the validation that their thinking the right things, I had coworkers tell me “I know exactly how you feel.” And then I was standing there saying, well if they’re not quitting I shouldn’t quit either… If someone had told me that it’s okay to say “I’m sorry, I can’t stay late” I probably wouldn’t have killed myself these past few years.
10. School has to come first. By letting work come first you’re saying that making money right now is more important than your education and by default, more important that making money in the future. Unless you will literally not be able to eat if you pass on picking up an extra shift, don’t let that shift take the place of a class your butt should be in. You’re paying to be in school so you’re throwing money away by saying your job is more important. Also, taking on a third job and dropping out of school for ‘only a little bit’ might seem like a good idea now but the older you are the harder it is to learn. Live off ramen now, make bank later.
9. Don’t let your mental health take a backseat. Making time to go out with friends, study, and focus on you is so important. Don’t let months go by without doing the things you love because you never have a free minute. This is important whether or not you need the money. You will never need the money so horribly you forget who you are. Don’t get swept up in the drama of the work place or the frivolousness of that level 1000 class.
8. If you’re crying over chicken nuggets, it’s time to go home. I knew that my time in fast food was over when I was standing in the walk in cooler, having a mental breakdown, because someone said the chicken nuggets were cold. Granted, the breakdown was more about the fact that I had an exam that afternoon that I was going to fail because I had no time to study for it, but the chicken nuggets really pushed me over the edge. I left the walk in knowing I was done.
7. It’s not for everyone. Working and taking classes is not for everyone. Some people just cannot figure out how to manage that many hours in a week. Some people don’t need to make money while they’re taking classes. However, if you are that person who’s not working and keeps saying, “Well I don’t understand why you don’t have time to study, you should just quit your job.” Keep in mind that some people are completely on their own and have to financially support themselves, they really can’t ‘just quit.’ I do think that working, at least part time, while being in school really helps people start to create financial stability.
6. Prioritize. You need one thousand dollars this month to cover rent, your car insurance, and pay to eat. You get paid about $500 per pay period at your almost full time, minimum wage job. Your expenses are covered so you don’t really need to work any extra hours. You really need a new pair of shoes so you pick up an extra shift and give up five hours of study time. You want to go to disney with some friends next month, they told you on the fifteenth of this month so you only have one pay period to come up with that money. It’s going to cost you about $250. This means you’ll have to work about fifteen more hours this week and next. You have two exams next week but you’ll just blow those off… No! Don’t blow off the exams! If socializing is more important to you than doing well in school you should stop wasting your money on tuition.
5. Make your needs known. Don’t let your manager or your professor tell you what you need. They don’t know what kind of other stress you’re under, what’s going on at home, what exams you have, what bills you have to pay, unless you make it clear to them that working an extra six hours a week just isn’t doable for you they’re going to keep asking. I had a professor tell me that I needed to cut back at work because her class was that much more important, I wasn’t failing her class or anything. I can’t tell you enough how many times my manager would say “but your class doesn’t actually start until 3 so can you just stay another twenty minutes?” I got off work at 2:30… You want me to stay until 2:50 even though I’ve been here since 6am… Because you didn’t plan breaks right… No.
4. Stop making excuses. If you’re working more hours than you physically need to work to survive and you’re taking more than the required number of credit hours, I applaud your ambition because it rivals my own, but do not be the person who walks into class and says, “Oh I couldn’t do the homework because I was working at my third job last night.” Unless you actually had to work those hours, I don’t care. I don’t walk in telling you about my stressful home life, about my three jobs, about my eighteen credit hours, and I still got the homework done. You don’t know what the people around you have gone through to get the assignment done, don’t use an unnecessary job to make excuses for yourself.
3. Stay organized. The key to taking all of the classes while working all of the house is keeping organized. You might look crazy with three different planners and binders galore, but as long as it works for you it doesn’t matter. I have three planners, one that I use for large assignments on a monthly basis, another I use for small assignments on a weekly basis, and another that I use for my personal life. I keep my desk organized to prevent distractions while I’m studying and my makeup table organized to prevent delays in the morning. It’s a process and it’s definitely taken time to develop proper organization systems but it’s worth when I’m not walking into class only to find out we have an exam that day.
2. Know your limits. Don’t agree to take the extra shift, or do the extra work in the group project, if you know you won’t have the time or the energy to do it. You need to know what’s too much and make a pact with yourself that you won’t take on more than you’re capable of.
1. Sleep. Sleep. I’ll say it again, sleep. Living off caffeine and redbull for a week might be plausible but doing it for sixteen week chunks of time is absolutely not something I advise you to take on. Just sleep, no one wants to deal with a cranky, over tired, you.
For anyone who’s curious these are the jobs I’ve had while in high school and college : I was a full time nanny, across the country, for the whole summer and I also had a job at McDonald’s at the time. I was also taking three online classes with my high school. That summer kind of set the precedent for what feels like the rest of my life.
After that summer I got a job at the local movie theater, I worked there for the fall season. Following the movie theater I got a job at a funeral home as a front desk secretary/service staff employee. This was during my senior year of high school. My senior summer I worked for the funeral home a bit and I took a two week vacation in NYC. When I got back from New York I got a job at a daycare center, I also continued to work with the funeral home. I worked there my freshman year of college, so I took a sh*t ton of classes and was a full time lead teacher at my center.
From the daycare center I moved on to a Chick-Fil-A on campus and I worked there full time during my sophomore year, while taking five classes a semester. Recently I got a third job in IT on campus and that led me to quit my full time job at CFA. I still work at the funeral home, where I’ve been for almost three years, and I’m currently taking six classes.