Having a job or internship as a student is never easy, but for most students it’s a necessity in order to save money to pay off loans, or to have some spending money. Plus, working is great experience, no matter what kind of job you have.
I worked in dining at both Franklin Pierce and at Boston College; at FPU, I served students food, and at BC I was a barista at our Chocolate Bar. There were days where I didn’t want to go to work, or I felt like I deserved better, but that happens with every job, no matter where you are. Even in a job that relates directly to your field of study, you will most likely start from the bottom doing menial or boring tasks. Only after having completed this stage will you have opportunities to get promoted or show that you have innovative ideas to contribute.
I also think that it’s important for students to experience working for other students/adults. Unless you worked during high school, you have been pretty much served everything you’re entire life. This continues in college; dining halls serve our food, universities provide housing, and, with the exception of laundry (in which case, let’s be honest – people only do it once a month anyway), everything else is pretty much given to you. Because we are handed everything on a plate, we forget that those who serve us are also human beings and that they also have lives and feelings. The next time you get frustrated because you had to wait too long for your coffee, or your server forgot your extra side of mac ‘n’ cheese, remember that you could just as easily be in their position. Nobody likes to be embarrassed or yelled at, so treat those who are serving you with the same respect you would like to be treated with.
Working teaches you how to deal with difficult customers, how to follow directions, and be part of a team. These are lifelong lessons that will be important for every aspect of life and future career, no matter what field you’re in (unless you have a job where you don’t interact with any human beings…).
However, most of us have other aspirations that have nothing to do with brewing coffee or swiping IDs at the gym entrance. The summer after your sophomore and junior is the best time to have an internship; most internships look for older candidates who have more experience and more knowledge under their belt. As a rising junior or senior, you will committed to a certain major, and will want to try out working at a job/internship that relates to that interest. Internships are invaluable because they give you experience and a contact to put on your resume (for future applications), and they give you an opportunity to discover if what you’re studying is truly what you want to do.
This past summer, I interned as a research assistant at a psychology lab on campus. Even though I’m majoring in psychology, I was shocked to find that after two months of doing research and testing subjects, I was sick of it. I dreaded going to work each day, I hated entering in data, and I couldn’t wait for it to be over. It astounded me that there were parts of psychology – something I’m deeply passionate about – that I disliked. The internship showed me that research is definitely not something I could do long-term. If I already hated it after two months, I would definitely not be able to do it for life. Thankfully, there are other areas of psychology that I can pursue, but if I had not been a lab assistant, I would have never known.
Working a job and interning are both crucial parts of education – ones that are sometimes overlooked or left out. Not everything is learned in the classroom; experience in a job unrelated to and in line with what you are studying may give you a better sense of what you want to pursue/accomplish in the future.
And let’s be honest, it’s also nice to have some pocket money.
A bit of advice: if you want to have an internship during the summer, start looking midyear, around January (or earlier) and start applying by February or March. It’s much better to be on top of things and proactive, because you’ll have more options and back up plans.