“It’s about time you got a job!”
This is an exclamation that just about every student has heard at some point in his/her life. For some, the prospect of beginning employment is exciting and is a chance to experience financial independence. For others, the process of looking for work is intimidating and difficult — an unwanted task at best. Whether having a job excites you or terrifies you, there is a common lesson to be taken from being employed.
It isn’t all about the money.
As cliché as that sounds, it’s the truth. For example, being employed during high school and college has been proven to boost GPA. In a study done by the National Center for Education Statistics, students who work 1-15 hours a week report higher GPAs than those who do not work at all. A drop in GPA was only reported from students who work more than 20 hours a week.
Like everything in life, however, not everything revolves around academic success. Being a working student during both the school year and summer benefits individuals in ways we as society seem to undermine. Laugh and make fun all you want of how McDonald’s is always hiring, but the students who are employees of such a corporation are learning priceless skills for life each time they clock in. Here are seven reasons why being an employed student makes you a better person, as well as some pro tips for your own working success this year.
1. You become a great time and task manager.
If you have ever held a job during the school year, you know the feeling of trying to manage a sports schedule, a homework schedule and a work schedule all in the same week, sometimes even on the same day. I remember the many nights where I would rush from my job as a tutor straight to drama rehearsal where I would then do my homework in between scenes. While stressful in the moment, learning to balance all of life's responsibilities is an essential skill in becoming a well-adjusted adult. Working students have a sense of priorities and deadlines that is not always present when an individual is simply just a student. Being committed to an occupation is a consistent reminder of just how valuable time is and how it must be managed carefully.
Pro tip: Each weekend, gather your sports, work and school assignment schedules for the week. Make a master schedule using all of these either on paper or on your phone. Seeing deadlines, games and shifts all in the same place will help you to allot the proper amount of time of homework assignments, friends and studying.
2. You have a great respect for your own finances.
As a child, most of the money you have is not earned. Instead, it comes in the form of birthday money, an allowance or a surprise card from grandma and grandpa. This kind of money is easy to spend because you don't feel like you are losing anything. When you start working, however, every paycheck seems to have a great deal of weight to it, and spending it is much more difficult. Every dollar you spend is a dollar you earned washing dishes, talking to crabby customers or putting away endless boxes of inventory. Being a working student teaches you the value of saving money and how to restrain expenses. This is also the time when you may begin paying your own bills such as for gas, phone and car insurance. It doesn't get much more life-applicable than that.
Pro tip: Each paycheck you get, make a budget for that pay cycle that includes bills, savings and other expenses you are responsible for. Budgeting is made easier with budget books such as this one.
3. You learn how to deal with difficult people.
Whether your boss makes you stay late every shift or a regular customer has an absurdly difficult order each time he/she comes in, it is a guarantee that you will not love all of the people you encounter at your job. As annoying and frustrating as this can be, this is a great problem to have exposure to. It teaches you to choose your battles, respect authority and act humbly in the face of criticism. Wherever you are choosing to go career wise in your life, you won't like everyone you meet. Learning how to properly manage conflict in the workplace now gives you experience for later on confronting professors, fellow employees and even your friends.
Pro tip: Even if everyone around you is getting upset and frustrated, make it your goal to be the calm one in the conflict. Be the first to listen to what the other side of the argument is, then politely explain your position. It will keep you from saying things you do not mean and will ultimately help deescalate the situation.
4. You gain resume-building skills and experience.
You may think that your current job flipping burgers or hanging clothes won't benefit you at all in the future. This could not be farther from the truth. For starters, it could be showing you what you do NOT want to do for the rest of your life, motivating you to press on towards bigger and better things. On a larger scale, your experience in part-time student work shows future employers your desire to work hard and your early motivation for becoming part of the workforce. You could even be developing a skill you need for a later job or promotion. For example, an employee who knows a store's day-to-day operations, values and goals is often more likely to be hired as a manager than an outside hire. More experience means more skill, which means more opportunities.
Pro tip: Take classes at local community centers to gain extra skill sets pertaining to the job you want. For example, if you want to work at a cafe, try taking a latte art course. This will show employers you are sincerely interested in a particular job as well as build your resume, which makes you a more competitive candidate.
5. You can begin investing and saving early on in life.
Let's face it: life gets expensive real quick. You never know when you may need to purchase a new car or move to a different apartment. The earlier you begin working, the earlier you can begin saving money on a regular basis. That way when unseen or large expenses come up, you have the funds to cover them. You can also invest your newly made cash in money market accounts, bonds and stocks to make even more money, teaching you how to make long-term investments for the future.
Pro tip: Before leaving for college, talk to your local bank about establishing a savings account. While you are there, you can also discuss resources regarding bonds and the money market accounts they may offer.
6. You learn how the institution of money works in our country.
Everyone has heard their parents complain about taxes at some point in time. These complaints become very relatable when you receive your first pay stub and see the amount taken out for taxes. As frustrating as this can be, this is a great lesson in how the government functions. Paying taxes is a part of adult life, and it is better to learn early on what your responsibility in paying them means. Having a job also means filing your own taxes, a task you will have to do every year for the rest of your life. Learn now, struggle less later.
Pro tip: If the whole paying taxes thing confuses you, head down to your local tax preparation service center, such as H&R Block, and ask to speak with someone there. These people will be able to provide information regarding local, state and federal taxes as well as what you personally are responsible for when it comes to paying them.
7. You can help people using your own finances.
Everyone has a cause that is close to their heart. Whether you love helping animals through the ASPCA or you want to cure breast cancer through Race For The Cure, there is a charity out there waiting for people like you to donate for the sake of their cause. There is something so rewarding about giving generously to those who need help. Learning to give regularly helps you to encourage philanthropy in your community and within your family. It also creates a lifelong habit and passion for providing charity support. Don't let your money control your life; learn to be selfless through giving. You have the power to make a difference with whatever amount you give.
Pro tip: Set a personal goal for the year in terms of charitable giving. Pick a cause that is important to you and decide what amount is feasible for you to regularly give. Explore opportunities to be actively involved in this charity as well, such as local advocacy, volunteer work and fundraisers.
Being an employed student is essentially a crash course for adult life. If experience is considered the best teacher, diving head first into the workforce may just be the best decision you make.
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