By Hailey Mensik
Since the day I turned 16, I’ve had a job. My first job was at a children’s clothing store and followed by many others at different restaurants. It’s been so interesting to me to see these different kinds of retail and restaurant industries through the lens of an employee, and the varying wages and benefits I’ve been offered.
At restaurants tips are huge. Although servers make the most money through tips, other positions rely on them too. The first restaurant I worked at was a sushi place where I was a hostess. I made tips through take out orders I took, averaging anywhere from $5 to $12 a shift. It wasn’t much, but I loved knowing I had that extra cash every time to pay for a meal or coffee after work.
After that I worked at Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion, a more upscale place only open for dinner. I was a host there as well, but received a small portion of the tips the servers made, which was actually a lot, because the servers made a ton. That extra $20-$30 a shift was huge for me, and helped me save a ton of cash before my freshman year of college out of state.
I went to Colorado State University my freshman year, and found it just wasn’t the school for me. But journalism, my major, was. I loved learning about the industry and all the facets of it, especially marketing and the newer use of social media as an advertising platform.
I knew I would return home and go to ASU for school and started looking for on campus jobs to give me more experience related to my major to add to my resume. I was hired as a social media specialist for the student services department. At $10 an hour, doing some deskwork and running a couple social media accounts sounded perfect.
I enjoyed it at first, but after a while, I immediately realized I wanted to work in a restaurant again. The shifts dragged on at my boring cubicle, making it impossible for me to put in enough hours to make as much as I needed. I stuck with the position for a year though, because I really wanted that experience on my resume.
I’m so lucky to have a family that supports me and pays for my school, leaving me to pay for just some of my living expenses and any extra funding to do fun college kid activities. It made me beyond empathetic for those who don’t have it as well as I did – I couldn’t imagine working all the time at a place like that just to barely survive and add something to my resume to hopefully make more someday.
After my one year, I quit and immediately got a job at a casual restaurant in Phoenix, where I am currently employed. I love it there. The shifts go by so fast in the busier environment, and as a busser/server, I make almost $15 an hour with tips included. That extra spending money is paramount to my lifestyle. In college, you’re often so busy that you have to eat out all the time, as you simply don’t have the time or money to cook at home.
I guess what I’ve learned about money from my work experience is how a little goes a long way. I made more money at every restaurant job while simultaneously needing more as I became more independent from my parents. Every extra dollar for food or coffee counts, and if I work really hard, it all adds up significantly. I also learned through my social media job the importance of having something to put on your resume. I would’ve been so much happier working at my restaurant for that year, but that boring, low-paying work really helped me get some opportunities that led to others I may not have gotten otherwise.
Ultimately, its important at this age to not get caught up in all the money you can make and the independence you feel working at a restaurant or higher-paying job like mine. I always think about if I didn’t go to school and worked there 40 hours a week, I could easily support myself entirely. Money is important, but it’s not everything. Always think long term, practice patience, and just trust you’re doing the right thing.
Hailey Mensik is a student at Arizona State University.