By Samuel Leal, Arizona State University

The pursuit of legally taxable income has taken me to some interesting places. Just after my high school graduation, for example, I had thought proving myself in the real world meant getting a job in the deli department of a nearby grocery store – but quit after a while because the free chicken wings no longer seemed to make that particular job worthwhile overall.

The summer after I had just wrapped up my junior year of college was more interesting. Money was short and financial obligations were high. I had gotten by for a couple of months through a combination of political canvassing and paid online transcription projects. But now that school had let out, I found myself with enough free time for a full-time job.

After an evening dedicated to scanning job ads, I found myself in an interview. It was by no means a glamorous position: A call center. But it gave me 40 hours a week and the business model was interesting because it was the customer service arm of a collection of fledgling newspapers.

As someone studying journalism, it was nice to phone home and tell my mom I was officially “in the industry.” Many days melted into one another punctuated by 9-hour blocks of time which consisted of me endlessly reassuring subscribers that their missing papers would soon be replaced.

One such afternoon, there was the following exchange with a typical irate subscriber:

Subscriber: “I just can’t believe that this is the third time I’ve had to call in this week!”

Me: “I do apologize for the inconvenience. If you could please provide…”

Subscriber: “I am just sick and tired of having to deal with this!”

In order to stem the subscriber’s extended tirade, as a change of pace I decided to respond with my very own lengthy, dramatic and highly empathetic response. My ingenuity seemed to work well and got the desired result.  But then, no more than an hour later, I found myself explaining my actions to an absolutely irate supervisor, who had gone through the recordings of all my previous calls and soon discovered my personal creativity had resulted in a pandora’s box of what the company considered protocol violations and improper conduct of its rules.

So I was jobless the next day. Protocol matters.

Thankfully, my work life didn’t end there. Since then I have had the pleasure of working as a Spanish language interpreter for workers. And, honestly, it’s pretty nice to be making money, helping people and gaining relevant experience.

My advice: If you’re young and inexperienced, many jobs you pick up in the fight for economic survival are going to seem miserable. If you’re not going to be living the dream, you might as well be making money. But when an opportunity to make money and set yourself up for a better future presents itself, you better know how to recognize it.

Samuel Leal is a student at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.