Misperceptions and Reality: The Benefits of Student Employment

Guest post by JHU Alumnus Wagas Butt. 

Before coming to JHU, I had a number of typical pre-college concerns, ranging from whether or not I would find a group of people with whom I was comfortable to which classes I should be taking. Now, if you ask me whether or not having a job at college was a concern, I might say “yes” for the purposes of this article, but in all honesty, I, like the majority of incoming freshmen, was not worried about employment in college.

Granted, I signed up for federal work-study and remembered my older brothers both having some sort of job throughout their time at college. However, I did not sit in bed at night thinking about whether I prefer to work at the Athletic Center or the MSE. Slowly but surely, the summer went by and I arrived at JHU to go through the college experience. I was immersed in all the Orientation events, the first couple weeks of classes, and all the other memorable times of first semester, freshmen year.

Somehow, I managed to remember that I was on federal work-study and would need to find some sort of employment. So, the search began.

I applied for everything and anything: numerous office positions, several monitor jobs, and other random ones that I quite frankly do not remember. I received quite a few interested replies to the emails that I sent. Yet, in the end, I put all my eggs in one basket and decided applying for a position at the adjacent Baltimore Museum of Art as an Office Assistant in the Department of Rights and Reproduction. After going in for an informal interview, I received the position within a few days and started soon after. The majority of tasks that I performed consisted of sorting, labeling, and filing photography of the various works found in the museum. Although I am not a learned scholar or even an avid admirer of art, the plethora of images was admittedly quite appealing and enjoyable. After a while, however, viewing the usual pieces that most curators demanded with some sporadic and novel requests became somewhat monotonous and repetitive. I do not wish to bore people with the mundane goings-on of my life at the BMA, but I ended up working at my office position until the end of my sophomore year.

The next logical question might be why I decided to work at a place that does not exactly seem to be the most glamorous and thrilling one in the world. While the BMA as I’ve described it may not be perceived as enthralling, it was an enjoyable environment with friendly and diverse co-workers as well as a casual work atmosphere. It was also a tremendous experience because all aspects of my job were rewarding and pleasing. At the same time, I learned an immense amount about how to improve different facets of my life. I mentioned earlier that I worked with a whole assortment of individuals, which exposed me to vast range of differing opinions about and approaches to work and the world, in general. Being at JHU, one does meet people from all walks of life, but, unfortunately, the college environment does place people into a situation where they can become unaware of the world’s intense heterogeneity. Luckily, by discovering this opportunity outside the University, I was regularly around people that were quite distinct from anyone on campus, and thus, I was able to greatly improve my ability to communicate with and relate to others. As far as “people” skills, this was not the only gift of student employment. I became more capable of understanding and appreciating an entire array of persons, and as a result, further my insight into others, due to my employment opportunity.

A number of students are apprehensive about having a part-time job at school. Undoubtedly, JHU is academically quite intensive and challenging. I do not want to paint a false picture of JHU; holding a job or being involved in extracurricular activities while also completely your academic responsibilities is not a simple endeavor. However, neither is it unbelievably laborious. The key to any student’s success at JHU or any other institution is time management. This is where I find having a part-time position during the semester to have been the most worthwhile to me. In high school, I was involved in several extracurricular clubs and had a relatively vigorous schedule, but all this involvement did not cultivate a proper working habit. I was only able to generate such a work ethic once I arrived at college. Having to go into work on a regular basis throughout the semester fostered a situation where I could not shirk either my scholastic or my non-academic responsibilities. Thus, I created a daily routine where I would attend class, go into my job, and then, come back to the dorms or library for my schoolwork. This schedule also allowed an abundant amount of personal time for hanging out with friends, going out, and being involved around campus. Not only is having part-time employment completely feasible, but it actually contributes to a student’s ability to deal properly with the pressures of a demanding institution such as Johns Hopkins.

During this past summer, I was given the chance to conduct research at the University, which is, itself, an extracting venture, and I also maintained positions as head student assistant at the Student Employment Services Office and a monitor at our athletic center. While one may think performing independent research and holding two jobs that exceed forty-hours a week may be unfeasible and intolerable, a solid regiment, consisting of academics, extracurricular activities (be they, a part-time job or campus club), and profuse personal time, allows any student at any institution to fully take advantage of the countless opportunities available to them.

As one can see, the benefits of finding employment during one’s stay at JHU are numerous. Although I have only enumerated a handful, each student gains a whole set of precious lessons. As the JHU Student Employment Services motto goes, student employment is more than a paycheck. It is an avenue for students to learn not only about the dynamics of the working world, but also further appreciate the diversity of peoples and ideas that they will certainly encounter throughout their life.