09/24/2013 09:59 am ET | Updated Nov 24, 2013

What a Part-Time Job Taught Me

At the end of my sophomore year in high school I began my job hunt. My communication applications teacher was encouraging us all to get a part-time job and I pictured a job to be the first step into being my own person. A job, I thought, was going to be so fun: I would befriend all my co-workers; I would be rich. For some reason joining the workforce seemed glamorous to me.

I thought that I had great skills in dealing with kids, so I applied for a job to tutor kids. The day of my interview was also my first day of work and I was thrown into a quick-paced training demonstration. My first mistake led to my first confrontation with management and my first lesson. Don't try to befriend managers, but be respectful. After going through some work with a couple of kids I realized my second lesson. I was not as good as I thought I was, and it is better to ask for help than to do what you think is right. At the end of the day as I was filling out my time sheet I thought, "Is this really worth it?" It was a bucket of stress and sweat for minimum wage after all.

I went home a few days in a row after work feeling fatigued and pressured to do a good job, but as with most things, repetition made it more comfortable. It wasn't long until I learned how to develop respectful relationships with my bosses and what tone of voice to use with kids. I started sounding more confident in parent-tutor conferences and realized that the more confident you sound, the more it seems like you know what you are doing (even if you don't).

What surprised me the most after a few months was how little money I had spent. Money that I earned from working long hours seemed to be more valuable to me than money given to me by my parents. I kept it firmly clutched in my hands and suddenly shopping was a totally different experience. The cost of items translated into how many hours I needed to work to pay for it. In fact, instead of the splurges I thought I would be making, I have ended up with maybe three new shirts.

I would be lying if I said that I don't feel more mature than I used to be, as cheesy as that sounds. Perhaps I was hardened by the stern watchfulness of my manager, or I developed patience from the stubbornness of children. Either way, pulling a part-time job has certain redeeming effects that you would not obtain otherwise.

For those of you with some extra time on your hands, I strongly encourage you to try a part-time job! Who knows? Maybe it will shape you into a stronger person and it will definitely prepare you for life after school. For those of you who have just started working, don't quit too soon! I hope it is comforting to know that it will get easily the longer you stick with it. Besides, a little extra lunch money is quite the motivation.

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