For many teens, turning 14 means one thing: it’s time to earn some $$$! Now, there’s a good chance your first job is far from glamorous. You’re probably spending your time stocking shelves, slinging fries or sprinting after children. But along with building up your bank account, you’ll also be learning some seriously valuable skills that will come in handy when you get to uni…
Anyone who’s worked as a checkout chick at Kmart or served lewks at Supre knows the pain of dealing with people all day. I clocked 4 years at Bakers Delight during high school, and let me tell you, the seriousness with which people took their bread was insane.
Along with honing your people skills, retail – and any customer service role, really – teaches you patience. You have to be friendly and polite, and tune into your customers’ needs. These job requirements may make you duck out the back for a few deep breaths, but they’ll also help you out at Uni. Since you’re a pro with handling questions and complaints, you’ll be able to listen, and then offer your opinion in group tasks – and do it in a diplomatic way.
As fun as it can be, looking after kids is all about responsibility. People are trusting you to care for their tiny humans. If you discover they’re Satan’s children who destroy everything they touch, you can’t just walk out. And if something happens to them, it’s (probably) on you. The same principles apply at uni.
Unlike school, no-one cares if you hand in your assignments on time. No-one will check in on you if you don’t rock up to lectures or tutes. Basically, no-one will hold your hand. You chose to be there, and you get to decide how much work you put in. Luckily, you’ll already know what accountability feels like from babysitting. You’ll know what it’s like to be in charge, so hopefully, it won’t come as too much of a surprise. Oh, and as a babysitter, you most likely had to work on Fridays and Saturdays – which will train you for those all-nighters!
Skill: Staying calm under pressure
Between taking complicated orders, balancing a bunch of plates on one arm, and letting the kitchen know about any allergies that may kill your customers, working in hospitality is no picnic. If you work at a café, restaurant, or fast food outlet, you’ll do more than make coffees and ask, “Would you like fries with that?” You’ll be under pressure to perform a lot of the time.
Your ability to assess problems and multi-task will serve you well at uni. In its own way, uni is a high-pressure environment. If you’re studying full-time, you’ll have four subjects a semester, and four assignments for each. Then there are the extra tasks, like reading (and reading, and reading) and participating in tutorials. It’s a lot, but the time-sensitive nature of your hospo gig would have prepared you well.
Skill: Time Management
By assistant, we mean any job where you take tasks off someone else’s plate. Maybe you’re a personal assistant for a VIP, or an admin assistant at a company. Maybe you run errands, walk dogs, mow lawns, or organise wardrobes just like Kimmy K did to weasel her way into Hollywood. Whatever you’re doing, you must be organised. You need to be productive, and prioritise the things that are most important – and that comes down to time management. When you’ve already been juggling school, work and homework, uni will be a breeze. Or at the very least, your experience will give you a head start on the kids who haven’t worked a day in their lives.
P.S. We’ve got you. Check our top time management tips!
Skill: Attention to detail
Tutoring is a big business. If you’re a smartie in a particular subject (or two), parents might be paying you to pass on your wisdom to the next gen. As a tutor, you need knowledge as well as some of the skillz we’ve talked about, like patience and problem solving. You also need attention to detail, so you can find out why your prodigy is struggling and spot errors. You’re a teacher, so you probably know just how to break down an overwhelming task into smaller, more manageable chunks. And that’s exactly how you’ll tackle every uni assignment. Bit by bit, step by step.
Skill: Working with diverse people
School can get a little…stale. For example, I went to an all-girls Catholic high school, and a lot of my friends were in similar circles. When you start working, you’ll be exposed to people from all walks of life. You’ll meet men and women of different ages, from different backgrounds. You may have nothing in common with those people (except a burning desire to make money!), and that’s okay! But chances are, you’ll learn how to conduct a conversation with anyone – and that is a MAJOR skill that will take you through uni, your first ‘real’ job, and beyond!
Words by Katia Iervasi