By Ron Davis
I’ve put in countless hours at the journalism school over the past few years. I am now in my final semester of college, still putting in those same hours, but now getting paid for it.
Following a strong semester, I impressed my professor enough that he offered me a position to be his lone undergraduate teaching assistant. When I initially accepted, my thought process was that I wanted to help out students who were like me when I entered the journalism school. While that remains incredibly fulfilling, I’ve learned that being a teacher’s assistant is actually threefold: I help out students who were me a few years ago, I gain practical experience that will apply to my career, and I get paid to do it.
I can’t begin to express how different it feels to put in those same long hours but now getting a professional paycheck on top of it. It changes my approach before I go in for a shift. I take it more seriously because I’m now considered an employee, but because of the other benefits to the job, it really doesn’t feel like work. My guess is I wouldn’t as much out of being a barista at Starbucks or some other overly expensive coffee shop than I do right now.
I’m in a unique TA position as an assistant editor of a community newspaper, so it is a major time commitment. Although the level of commitment varies among what your professor will ask of you, a block of your time will be filled with being in office hours, in his or her class, or, in my case, at the sports desk editing stories. You’re going to need to learn how to manage your time. It might phase a typical “going-out” night off your schedule or affect your sleep schedule, but once you get into a routine, you don’t even think about it.
You’re building on your skills that you want learn and being paid to do so while you’re a student. And, when you do have a free night and elect to go out, it just feels more deserved and you can actually finance the evening yourself as opposed to borrowing money from the bank of mom and dad.
Future internship coordinators and employers look at TAs. Plus, I just think it sounds a lot better to show them you’ve learned multiple sides of the business before you enter into it and you were able to use your talents to pay it forward to future students who were just like you.
We do know that almost 80 percent of college students work part-time, averaging 19 hours a week, according to a survey from Seventeen magazine. Having your work help you in a career is a plus. All colleges offer jobs to students. If not in your own major, you might find employment in another area on campus that matches your major. For example, art majors might be able to work on signage for the campus book store
Seek those opportunities and it’s a double benefit.
Ron Davis is senior majoring in journalism at the University of Missouri.