I have had various jobs throughout college, and I’ve learned drastically different things at each of them. I started off my college career with a two-year stint at a smoothie shop in the main part of the college town I lived in. Despite the woes of working in food service/customer service, I really enjoyed this job. I had a boss who really cared about how each of her employees was doing, and I had a pretty tight knit community with my coworkers. My first life lesson came from this job, and it was …
The customer may always be right about their order, but not about you.
I had a day where everything seemed to be going wrong. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, I had an angry customer get upset that his total wasn’t what he expected. He started getting extremely upset and eventually yelled at me, telling me I was dumb and needed more training. I pretty much burst into tears the second I walked into the back, and one of my coworkers told me that he was obviously wrong. I went to an elite university and I was the most trained employee there. This was a much more broad life lesson to not listen to what other people say. Sometimes people just want to get you down, and they aren’t always right.
After this job, I worked at a nonprofit housing agency running an after-school program for kids and teens. I really loved the mission of the organization, and I grew to adore the kids I worked with. After a year of working here, I started to feel severely burnt out. I was going to school full-time, working a second job, and trying to have a social life. My second life lesson came from this, and it’s to always:
I eventually decided to step away from this job. I needed to care for my own mental health before I could focus on taking care of anyone else. This is a huge life lesson, especially since I will be going into social work. It’s important that you are happy, healthy, and enjoy what you’re doing before you try to work on helping anyone else.
Finally, my current job is at a child psychiatric unit in the university hospital. I am essentially a nurse aide on the unit. As you can imagine, a lot of patience and learning goes along with this job. So the final life lesson to share is:
You don’t know what people are going through at home.
I’ve seen a lot of kids come in and out of here and heard a lot of their stories. A lot of them are bullied at school and have rough home lives on top of having a mental illness. This life lesson is overarching in any scenario of life. When that customer is being rude to you, they may have something else going on. When your McDonald’s order doesn’t come out perfectly, think about the human beings that are making it for you and what they may be going through. This perspective on life has really helped me be a more calm, understanding, and empathetic person.