Elaina Weber, My Jobs
I am a college student on track to graduate in 2016 with a Biological Sciences degree and the opportunity to possibly attend medical school for the following four years of my life. I have been blessed with education and opportunity, and that is something that I am grateful for every day. However, this opportunity comes with a fair amount of pressure, including the pressure to define and then obtain my “dream job.”
Where is all of this pressure to find the perfect career coming from?
In the past, I have worked a slew of odd jobs to get me through times when I needed a bit of extra cash. Each of these jobs taught me more about myself and about life, and though I have yet to experience my “dream job,” I would never say I regret working at the places I have worked. In fact, I have genuinely loved each job I have taken, despite the wide-ranging skills required or the large swing in wages I have experienced.
It started with babysitting when I was about 13 years old and living in Michigan, which paid below minimum wage but was also a type of community service for my neighborhood. At my job, I felt a part of a family, and I experienced the love of children. This caused me to work with children for most of my jobs following.
My first real job was as a party hostess at a nearby laser tag, go-kart, and trampoline facility. Here, I was paid $6.25 an hour, and tips were supposed to bring my wage up to minimum. However, 60% of the tips were shared between the chef and the manager for the evening, and I often went home unsatisfied but unsure of my rights as a worker of 16 years of age. Though I do feel that I was underpaid, I continued to work at the facilities for two years because I loved my coworkers, the children I worked with, and the fact that I had a paycheck to my name.
Because the hours were unsteady during this time, I also worked as a soccer coach for a variety of camps. My favorite age group was under 7 years, but I also thrived off of being a mentor for the under 15 year old girls. When I could, I picked up shifts working at younger teams’ tournaments and painting lines on the same soccer fields I practiced and played at four days a week.
My last summer before college, I worked as a camp counselor for long days, five days a week, at minimum wage. Some days I came home covered in paint, ketchup, and bodily fluids of other small human begins, but I genuinely felt as though I was needed at the job. I made a difference here, and I learned that consistent presence in one’s workplace turns a seemingly replaceable employee into an important cog in the overall organism of the business.
For college, I took a leap of faith and moved to New York and started spending my summers in other cities as well. I spent my first college summer in Chicago, where I took on a job at the Gap on the Logistics team. At this point in my life, the Gap paid the most I had ever earned per hour at a wage of $9.25. I worked hard, getting up at 4:30 for shifts from 5 a.m. to the early afternoon. I loved the community and the environment, and I was treated with respect by my coworkers and supervisors. This was my first job that did not directly involve working with children, but I often found myself on the lowest level of the four-floor shop, which housed the Gap Kids collection.
My sophomore year, I earned the role of a Resident Assistant on campus. I so much enjoyed being a mentor for the freshman I lived with that I accepted this role for a second time this year. My bank account does not see a dime from my hard work, but Residential Life covers my room and board with a modest tuition scholarship, which amounts to nearly $17,000 each school year. However, when I first applied for the job, I remember telling my mother that I wanted the role so badly that I would be happy to work for free. I didn’t take the job for the money; this job was about helping others that had less experience than me adjust during a sincerely difficult transition from high school and home life to the independent lifestyle that comes with college.
Last summer, I experienced my first job that related directly to what I am studying. I accepted a position at a microbial ecology research lab at the University of Montana, where my collegiate knowledge and skills were directly employed. A sum of $3,500 was deposited into my account in intervals over the summer as a stipend for my research efforts. It was genuinely an amazing feeling to be paid to be a scientist. However, the fact that I had not worked with kids caused me to search for a source of youth when I returned to New York in the fall. This year, I picked up a job on the weekends working at as birthday party hostess again, this time earning $15 an hour for a job that I think requires less work than a similar one I worked in Michigan for $6.25. I feel in this way, I have come full circle with my odd jobs, and I have gained an important piece of knowledge from doing so.
I genuinely appreciated the lessons learned at each job I have worked. At the same time, I know that none of these jobs are what I want to spend my life doing. This is why I bounce around from job to job. At the same time, there is an obvious thread to what gives me happiness in the workplace. The funny thing is, I would have found this happiness in other areas of my life all along, whether I was paid for them or not. Since I was 12, I have been volunteering with kids younger than me. My volunteer experience ranges from soccer coaching to tutoring to babysitting, and when I’m not volunteering with children, I feel something missing in my life. Whether I am a retail employee, a camp counselor, a soccer coach, or a scientist, I know that helping children or those younger than me is what is going to make my life fulfilling for me. This leaves me with a very open idea of what kind of career I want in my life.
By Elaina Weber
When we talk about dream jobs, we speak of a single occupation that can give one full satisfaction and fulfillment. But I don’t think that I will ever find a career that fulfills every part of my being, because I am not a job. I am a human being who cares about helping children. Maybe I will be lucky enough to incorporate this into a career. But maybe I will find a career that allows me enough financial stability and spare time to incorporate helping youth into my life in other ways. Perhaps I will find myself working as a doctor that performs surgery three days a week, and giving me enough time to raise a family of my own, volunteer in my local community, or spend time abroad providing pediatric healthcare to those that can’t afford it.
For college kids with the idea in their head that their opportunity and education puts pressure on them to find happiness in a job, remember that you are not an occupation. An occupation does not have to fulfill every emotional, social, and spiritual need that makes you a complete human being. Instead, a job has to support you financially and allow you to pursue the unique dreams that make up your true being as a person.
I’m not looking for a dream job. I’m looking to fulfill my dream self, and searching for a job that lets me do so.