Cultural Experience | Texas

Making the Most of Your Part-time Job in College

“Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.” –Oprah Winfrey

By Chelsea McDonald, Texas State University

College can feel like an alternate reality, as if we are removed from the ‘real world’ somehow. It leaves us in this limbo between child and adult. We have all the responsibilities of being an adult yet, we still feel like teenagers; uncertain of where are lives are heading. There is no defined outcome or guarantee that the degree you are working for will lead to anything. Many college graduates I have spoken to end up in a career that has no relevance to their degree at all. One thing they all have in common is the opportunities they took advantage of and making the most out of their experiences during their undergraduate career and applying them post-graduation.

I have been working for J. Crew for a little over a year now. When I first began working, I had no defined style. However, I knew that fashion interested me and J. Crew encompassed the style of clothes I could see myself wearing. I figured the best place to start would be getting a job there. Slowly but surely, I began building my new wardrobe and knowledge of fashion. I spent my free time reading fashion blogs and applying what I learned into my own wardrobe.

J crew shop image, San Marcos, Texas

J.Crew – San Marcos, Texas

Translating college experiences into marketable assets is important, and although, it is unlikely I will pursue a career in retail, I have learned so much from my experience. Here are five ways you can make the most of your part-time job in college.

(1) Pursue your passions

For many of us, working in college is not an option. Students can get stuck in a part-time job that feels like an obligation or a means to an end. The truth is it does not have to feel that way. Find a job that interests you or reflects your hobbies. It does not necessarily need to lead to your dream career, but life will improve immensely if you actually enjoy your part time job. Pursue your passions – then, find a way to apply those passions to your daily life.

(2) Take initiative

Showing initiative will not only impress your boss but will also help you refine your skill sets for your future career. By taking advantage of opportunities that are given to you at your part-time job, you are developing resume worthy skills that could land you a job after college.

Shortly after I began working for J. Crew, I became part of the team that works roll-out. Roll-out occurs 2-3 times per season. The store receives new shipment and our team stays over night to put new product in the store, as well as update the visuals and aesthetics. The first time I worked roll-out, I was in tears by the end of the night. I was one month into working in retail and I felt like I knew nothing. I put the waffle sweaters where the cords should have gone and organized them from cool to warm instead of warm to cool… I was a mess. Unfamiliar with the logistics and athletics of visual merchandising; but I wanted to learn more. I pushed myself to become more familiar with my surroundings and gain knowledge about the products we were selling. I found that I actually enjoyed going to work. I was finally getting experience in a field I was not going to school for, but had an interest and passion in.

Shirt Wall at J.Crew

Shirt Wall at J.Crew

(3) Develop good relationships with your coworkers

The best part about working a part-time job in college has definitely the friendships I have made over the year I have been there. Although I have made many great friends through classes, university organizations, and events, some of my dearest friendships came from my coworkers. It is important to have a community that shares the same interests as you outside of campus.

(4) Attitude is everything

Any job you have can be a learning experience with the right perspective. No matter what your chosen field is teamwork, dedication, and communication are important qualities to possess.  I believe the key to being successful is passion and putting your heart into everything you do. Admittedly, there are aspects of working in retail that are not so fun. Angry customers, piles of unfolded clothes strewn across the store, 6am opening shifts… but all of these things have taught me something. My communication skills, visual merchandising, and styling have all improved and prepared me to become a working professional once I walk across that stage as a starry-eyed college graduate ready to conquer the world.

(5) Show up

This seems like a relatively simple concept yet, I see so many of my coworkers, friends, and peers brushing off the importance of punctuality. Showing up late for shifts, meetings, and class – we are all guilty of it. The damage comes from making tardiness a habit. The only person that will hold you accountable is you.

Do not wait to start living your life or finding your passions until after college when you have the opportunity to have the time of your life today.

Chelsea McDonald

Texas State University | 2 stories

Chelsea McDonald is currently a senior at Texas State University, majoring in English with a minor in Psychology. She is one of the "Forty Faces" of Texas State selected to become a University Ambassador. Chelsea is an amateur fashionista, fueled by espresso and eternal optimism.

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