How My Part-Time Jobs Prepared Me to Teach

I have always had part-time jobs, through high school, undergraduate school, and now graduate school. My part-time positions ranged from a lifeguard at a local pool, a page at the library, a waiter and bartender, a store associate in retail, and several tutoring jobs. Beyond the obvious financial needs that these jobs met, they also provided me with numerous skills which I have found myself using in full-time positions, especially when I was an English teacher in South Korea. From all of these experiences I have gained invaluable skill in budgeting my time, interacting with others, and managing responsibilities. 

As a teacher, the ability to budget time and prioritize tasks is so incredibly important. There are so many details to pay attention to and so little time to get everything done. While this could have been overwhelming, I was used to having a tight schedule since I had to balance my part-time jobs with schoolwork, my social life, sports, and other commitments for years. I felt prepared to balance numerous responsibilities in my teaching role and was able to deal with having copious work without getting too stressed about it. I am currently in the process of a career change and am working toward my Master’s degree in Student Affairs Administration. This valuable skillset that I began developing through part-time work has been instrumental in helping me also succeed in my new academic program. I am taking numerous challenging courses while also gaining student affairs experience through a graduate assistantship, and my strong time management skills allow me to balance these responsibilities and get everything done on time. 

Additionally, my time in customer-facing positions have allowed me to develop my customer service voice and persona. This ability to essentially act gracefully in the face of anything was genuinely helpful as a teacher. Students say and do the wildest things, and you have to watch your reactions so as not to encourage bad behavior even if it is hilarious. This skill also comes into play when interacting with parents and administrators. In my position as a graduate assistant at the Fleishman Center, I meet with students daily and help them through their career questions. My customer service skills that I gained from my part-time jobs help me to keep an upbeat and enthusiastic attitude all day and approach each student with the same energy. It is also helpful as I begin building relationships with new students that I meet.

Overall, working part-time jobs served several purposes. I was able to afford my education and other expenses, and I was able to learn numerous transferable skills that I still use daily. 

By Rebecca Zajac
Rebecca Zajac Career Engagement Graduate Assistant