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My Boring After-School Job: Turns Out I Learned More than I Thought

Last spring, I started working at a garden center about 20 minutes away from my house. After attending a job fair, filling out an application, and surviving an on-the-spot interview, I was called and offered an after-school job as a cashier, which I promptly accepted. It didn’t take me too long to become adjusted to the new environment, learning both the ins and outs of the store and more about my fellow coworkers.

After several weeks, I began to notice something else. The garden center had become less of an after-school job—and more of a second education.

3 Things I Learned from My After-School Job

1. An education in time management

On a typical day, I would leave school at 3 p.m. and arrive at the garden center just in time for my 4 p.m. clock-in, and then I would work until 8:30 p.m. With this suddenly-filled schedule, I came to realize how much time I had previously been wasting.

I would arrive home and still have several hours of school work ahead of me. I started to think about how I was spending my free time. With the new after-school job, if I watched two hours of TV, then I  would need to stay up until midnight to finish my homework. The job also helped me to work on projects in advance, making all-nighters unnecessary. I learned how to make myself as productive as possible.

2. A clarification of my goals for the future

The main selling season at the garden center was from late March until early June. As the season progressed, fewer employees were needed as the amount of customers dwindled. In the beginning of June, the lay-offs began. I would arrive at my after-school job and find out that three more people had been laid off with no prior warning.

The constant reminder that the next day could be my last pushed upon me the importance of hard work. And then there was Rich.

Rich was a coworker of mine, and my senior by about 47 years. Rich was constantly informing me of how useless college was, just a waste of time and money. Unbeknownst to him, he was pushing me closer towards college. While I definitely admired Rich, I also realized that I did not want to be like him. I didn’t want a career as a cashier, and his stories of cutting class and other such school misadventures helped me realize how important college was to me.

3. A reminder to be kind

Last of all, one of the most important lessons I learned is something often overlooked.

I clearly remember one day when my coworker and friend Asia was brought to tears by an irate customer yelling at her for something she had nothing to do with. Seeing things like this taught me the importance of being kind to everyone. All people are deserving of respect, regardless of their position in life or relation to you. My boring after-school job taught me this in a personal and lasting way, and I’ll never forget what it’s like being on the other side of the counter.

Charlie Parent is a senior at St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland, Ohio.

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