The Job Gradient

By: Marisa Borreggine

Campus Sherpa Staff Writer, University of Washington

I’m sorry to break the news, but it turns out college isn’t just studying and partying—it’s

also reaching out and looking for a job. It’s all fine and well to spend your first few months at

school getting your bearings, but soon you will find out that you’re going to need money. Even if

your parents have to resources to send you a little something, getting a job is a great idea. It helps

you organize your time, learn responsibility, and how to take action. Your parents will be pretty

happy about it too! The extra money will help when you have to start paying rent if you move

out of the dorms, and supplement your self-care buys, whatever they may be (clothes, chocolate,

new sports gear, etc). There’s a process, from my experience, to the college job thing. You might

start as early as the summer before college working a small hometown mom-and- pop-shop,

which does give you a leg up, but a lot of people don’t get their first job until college, so don’t

feel alone if that’s you! The best place to start, in my opinion, is on campus. It’s easy to get to

and from, it gives you some insider knowledge, and you don’t have to worry about your schedule

as much. Campus job coordinators tend to be very understanding of your school schedule. I

worked as a barista on campus for a year, and it was a really valuable experience. I worked in

between classes and early mornings, got to learn how to make a killer cappuccino, and made

some supplemental money. The hours weren’t bad and I could just go straight to class from

work. I highly recommend looking into student jobs at your university, such as bookstore clerk,

barista, front desk helper, gym employee, lifeguard, anything you can find. These jobs generally

involve manual labor and organizational skills, which are both great things to build on. They’re

low-stress if you have a good team, and you get to make friends. I have met some of my best

friends because they were fellow baristas! At one point, you might see your friends and peers

getting into their majors, starting to look for internships, and you might feel the need to do the

same (and it is fine if you don’t!). If you are looking for something more out of your job, it’s

time for step two in this job gradient—step away from your comfort zone and into a job relevant

to your major. For me, this was emailing about 40 people and having 20 meetings until I found

the right research job for me. Here, ‘take whatever you can get’ doesn’t apply as much—do

consider every offer you get and the opportunities it gives you, but make sure to go with the one

that aligns with your interests most. There’s only so much you can give to a job that you don’t

like that much. If you’re a business major, look for internships. If you’re an English major, look

into the school newspaper. If you’re a STEM major—labs and research my friend! These jobs

are where you make some priceless connections with the people who may help determine your

future. My boss has written me countless letters of recommendation, hooked me up with other

research opportunities, given me ownership over my projects, and helped steer me towards a

productive and promising future! Be kind, responsible, and interested and your boss will invest

in you with these more serious jobs. They are scary, and you are so allowed to call your mom

crying because you have no idea what you’re doing after your first day (here’s looking to me six

months ago). It will get easier, and it will get more exciting. You’ll find out what you like, what

you don’t like, and where your true passions lie. This leads to the next step (keep in mind you

might have a few of these ‘step 2’ jobs along the way, college is four years)—the career move.

Now it’s time to get scary serious. You’re maybe close to graduation (or you’re a high school

senior who thinks way too far ahead like I did) and looking for that job that makes you feel like a

real adult. This is the time to put your feelers out. Email old bosses, current bosses, your advisor,

people in your department, old professors, and let them know what you’re interested in and see

what they know of. This of course, only applies if you aren’t going to grad school, which is a

whole other story. Go to your school’s career center, go to career fairs, and start applying. Even

if you don’t think you’re qualified—apply! It shows initiative and some companies really

appreciate that you put yourself out there anyways. Don’t let the idea that there’s no jobs for

college graduates out there scare you, if you set yourself apart and aren’t afraid to reach out, you

just might get lucky.

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