What in the World: Campus jobs are a crock

Go forth young person and think not of campus employment. We are living in a community rife with low-skill opportunities that pay significantly better than whatever job you may have on campus. A cursory glance through LinkedIn’s job openings shows a cornucopia of employment options. Forklift operator, urinalysis observer — a job I have personally done, one that provides good fodder for dinner parties — and delivery driver for Panera. All part-time positions within bus route range and all paying in excess of 10 dollars an hour. The good Lord knows, as do a number of my professors, that I am no math whiz, but even my molasses-like mind can figure out that you stand to make a sight more money off campus than on. 

But Luther, you have a job on campus. Indeed I do. You have found me out, the wretched hypocrite that I am. However, my school is entirely paid for by the GI Bill — thank you taxpayers — and the purpose of my on-campus job is to meet fellow students and socialize while also getting paid. Think of me as a slightly less wrinkled retiree looking to get out of the house. 

However, you, fair reader, are unlikely to be at Lawrence on the public dole as I am and instead are looking to make any money possible to toss into the black hole that is your student debt. I abhor debt; it is a source of anxiety and disquiet for me so I refuse to take any on. This is me trying to help you escape to the debt-free Valhalla I am fortunate enough to inhabit. Let us begin. 

First thing’s first: you want to limit your outgoing financials while boosting your income. The emphasis is on the income side because there is only so much that can be trimmed from a budget before you start not taking care of yourself. Eat food, enjoy life, but get a better job. 

Where does one look for jobs? If I were you, I would start on College Avenue within walking distance of Lawrence, look for hiring signs in windows. Servers in a restaurant who work hard and are pleasant should take home between 12 and 20 dollars per hour. A place to consider is the Pizza Palace, which will be reopening soon. They closed due to a lack of servers, and I am sure they would welcome an eager employee prospect. If you happen to be over 18, that is even better: get behind a bar and start tossing drinks around. 

If human interaction is not your cuppa, I would then proffer data entry, clerkships or other administrative jobs. It looks like there are openings at Kolosso Toyota, Ascension Medical and Best Buy for such positions. There would be no direct contact with customers and you can do your work in peace, knowing you are making at least two dollars more an hour than at Lawrence. I worked as a clerk for a cardiologist, and I found it to be extremely enjoyable. I had my own cubicle and poster of Dwight Schrute. The nurses all liked me and the hours were flexible. Social discomfort or general anxiety should not preclude you from making enough money to support yourself. 

Now, there are likely some questions you have, such as, “What about my school work?” Your schoolwork is the priority, yes. When you interview, be sure to stress to the interviewer that school responsibilities come before all else. If you have class and your employer wants you to come in for an extra shift, tell them you cannot. You have the power in a market bereft of quality candidates. Do not be pushed around. There are plenty of other job openings; do not think you have to contort your schedule unduly to please a specific business.

Another question might be: “I don’t have any skill or experience, so how can I possibly get a job?” What do all the jobs I just listed have in common? All require no skill or prior experience besides breathing, being 18, showing up and doing the work. Do not let your fear of rejection be the reason you do not pay off your loans years ahead of your peers. Show some chutzpah and get out there; you are more than able to succeed in the job market.

“Working for Lawrence is easy,” you may say. “Won’t working elsewhere be harder or more demanding?” Perhaps, perhaps not. Pay increases do imply added responsibility. Sitting behind a desk at Lawrence is easy, but you are also making jack squat. When you work, really work. The time will go much more quickly and your labor will feel more valuable to you. A little bit of sweat broken while working is good for one’s self-image.

“Is the difference in pay really all that substantial?” Let us run the numbers. As a shuttle driver, I make $8.30 an hour, which I understand to be fairly high for a student position. If I were to take a position at Lowe’s in stocking and receiving, I would make $14 an hour. Over the course of a year, assuming 20 hours of work per week, the shuttle driver makes $8,600 while the Lowe’s employee takes home $14,500. That looks significant to me. 

Do yourself a favor and, while your loans are not accruing interest, attack them as voraciously as possible. In an economy like Appleton’s, there are few — and typically tepid — excuses as to why one would voluntarily take a campus position versus one out in town. Expand your horizons, work for your future self and I promise that future self will be grateful for the work you put in while attending school. And remember, if ever you feel as if you cannot juggle work, school and your social life, do not feel like you are stuck, because you are not. 

Agree, disagree? Email me at abell@lawrence.edu. Cheers!