I May Have Worked Odd Jobs in College, But it was the Best Experience Ever

By Ilda Okanovic

As a graduating senior, I can safely say that my college experience was a great one. I made new friends, studied something I was genuinely interested in, and grew into a person I didn’t know I could be throughout these four years. The punchline of that joke was that like 43 percent of all undergrads, I was working constantly through it. 

If our resumes required that we document every single job we’ve ever worked, I would be guaranteed a job in almost every field. If I listed all those jobs, employers would have absolutely no clue of what my emphasis or focus even is. I’ve worked retail, food service, preschool tutor and as a leasing agent for an apartment complex. I’m currently working as a campus representative for Victoria’s Secret PINK and I’m also a campus library security person. Most of these jobs have been on campus – except for food service and leasing agent. Bizarre, right? I can’t even begin to tell you how many different colored uniforms I’ve had to wear, including tacky khakis and unflattering polo shirts.

But so be it. That was what I had to do to put myself through school and enjoy the delights of college life, like shot-gunning a White Claw on a Friday afternoon with my friends in a dingy backyard of some “darty” or daytime party. But that’s not even why I worked these bizarre jobs. 

Yes, it was for the income it provided me, but also, it expanded my college experience in ways that I didn’t imagine it would. Now, along with getting to partake in the “standard college experience” that all boomers rave about, I was also able to meet all kinds of people in each of these occupations. So, I was maintaining an okay income, escaping my everyday stressors, and gaining perspective from people I thought I wouldn’t ever say a word to.

I financed my own education. Like half of all college students, I’m the first in my family to attend college. I’m a first-generation American — my parents immigrated to the US from their war-scarred homeland in the ‘90s. I have virtually no foundation to draw from other than the one I lay down for myself and the generations after me. And the one thing that I can say is that, yes, jobs that pertain to your major/field of interest/etc. are important and do provide you with experience and a foreshadow into the future (possibly) of what you’ll be doing. But really, working these jobs has helped me better understand what I liked and what I didn’t like without going through the process of wasting credit hours and money. 

And if your university is anything like mine, some of the on-campus jobs allow you to basically get paid to do your homework once you get done whatever the task is. If there’s one piece of advice that I want to stress, that is: Apply for all those on-campus jobs, including the bizarre ones too. There are other students doing it too, so you’re not alone. And you can make a friend, realize that’s something you like doing or don’t, and can maintain working within a class schedule (on campus jobs will work around those hours, huge plus!) 

If my resume listed every job I’ve worked, I would look like the strangest candidate for any position. Employers would ask why I’ve bounced around so much, why I didn’t stay at any place for too long and the only thing I would tell them is: “I did what I needed to do to finance myself and got more out of it than what I even expected…so what can I expect to get from you?” 

Okanovic is a senior majoring in journalism at the University of Missouri.

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