No Such Thing as a Waste of a Job


As I sit down to write this, I find myself in the midst of a struggle that college first-years have faced since the dawn of time: finding a summer job. My parents have made it abundantly clear that, yes, they love me, but being around the house for eight hours a day is not going to fly this year. The coming of May sees summer lurking right around the corner, and you would not be wrong to classify me as in somewhat of desperation mode. What am I supposed to do? The hiring window for most “legitimate” jobs or internships (the word is highly subjective but I think you know what I mean) has passed. All that seems to be left are the types of jobs that I assumed I would leave behind after graduating high school: waiting tables, making coffees, working behind a cash register, etc. It feels weird for me and, somehow, wrong to go from a place like Colgate University — where it seems like everyone around me has some sort of high-brow business or consulting internship — to a place like the Starbucks at the corner of Sunset and Barrington. 

The unfortunate reality for me is that time is not on my side; as my demand for a job becomes more inelastic with each passing day, I am coming to the reality that I will probably have to settle for something that I didn’t picture for myself four months ago. What I had in mind was a job where I put on slacks and a dress shirt (definitely with a vest over it), took Uber Premium to a gleaming skyscraper and rode the corporate elevator a million stories up into the spotless corporate office with briefcase in hand, ready to engage in some incomprehensible corporate jargon-slinging. In reality, I will be taking my dinged-up Honda Civic to a job in a strip mall where I’ll be wearing an apron and a visor emblazoned with a chain logo and a name tag that says “HELLO MY NAME IS: RICHIE.” 

I know I can’t be the only one in this situation. There can be a lot of stress that goes into the process of finding where to work after the school year is over. This is especially the case when you are aspiring towards a job in the world of business or finance down the line, where the recruiting process starts very early on, and you feel like you’re doing something wrong if you don’t have a corner office in Deloitte with your feet up on the desk while you read the Wall Street Journal and smoke a massive cigar by the time you’re 22. If you’re anything like me, and you were maybe not so on the ball in your job hunt throughout this semester, I’m here to tell you that things are going to be ok. Not all jobs are equal — prestige is highly variable and the reality is that a person’s salary is often the best way to reflect that — but the bottom line is that a job is a job

I firmly believe that you can derive something valuable from all work experiences, no matter what it is you’re doing. I don’t necessarily have career aspirations to wrap burritos at Chipotle, but if that happens to be you for this summer, then find something — anything — from the experience that is going to help you when you do get that prestigious Wall Street job down the line. Maybe it means learning the best way to interact with a difficult customer, coworker or boss. Maybe it means working on your attitude in a professional environment. Maybe it means negotiating your hourly pay or your shift times or your tasks because, sorry, you actually can’t flip burgers because the last time you used a flat top you almost blew the roof off your house. 

No time spent working is worthless, but you have to commit yourself to that mindset. It sucks having to get up at six in the morning to drive to a job where you are underpaid, overworked and mind-numbingly bored — nobody is going to deny that — but being mopey is only going to make things worse. Working a job can be a little bit like school sometimes: you’ve got to suck it up and embrace the grind. Most importantly, find something from the job that you can derive value from and internalize it. It will pay off in the long run, and it is definitely better than sitting on the couch all day watching SportsCenter. 

Just remember that one summer spent working as a busboy, waiter, camp counselor, math tutor or burger flipper won’t ever preclude you from your dream job. If you have the right attitude, jobs like those can actually teach you lessons that get you closer to where you want to be in ways you might not expect. So, with all that said, I’ll see you on the front lines soldier. And if you happen to be in Los Angeles, my hometown, stop by that Starbucks on the corner of Sunset and Barrington. I’ll fix you up a mean oat milk latte — on the house.