Why holiday/summer jobs can give you a clear insight of what you want to be

by Yin on November 12, 2009

in Career

My personal experience:

I have worked the following jobs:

  • a clerk/receptionist- at the age of 17 for 3 months
  • a lab assistant- at the age of 19 for 4 months
  • in university- held the following jobs: secretary (twice), telemarketer, data entry clerk, industry training intern (compulsory for me to earn my degree)

As your career life cycle changes, the choices you’ve made also change. My first job as a clerk got me 3 things that I’ve wanted since I was 13- my first Panasonic walkman, a mountain bike and a camera- all of which I proudly bought with my own hard earned money. From there, I’ve learn from young to work for what you want- and when you get the reward, the feeling that you’ve earned it is priceless.

When I was 19 and working as a lab assistant, I decided I wanted to be a qualified chemist- because I thought I had loved lab work- I was having so much fun working alongside seniors who were fresh graduates. We were having so much fun testing compounds of M&Ms, twisties, Gardenia, cakes, cookies and eating them after…. My colleagues then were about few years older than me and were my role models- that’s why I stressed the point in the first article- that you must select the right kind of jobs to mix with the right group of people. Sometimes, you may set yourself up for a misguided direction for a long time by mixing and being influenced by the wrong group of people.

Anyway, when I got accepted into a local university, I relunctantly tendered my resignation.  At first I did not want to leave the place but my colleagues, mostly graduates themselves knew the benefits of an education and warned me not to give up the chance.  Another lab assistant- a rowdy tomboy who chain smoked and did not manage to get a decent education, had advised me to further my studies so that I would not be like her- doing a chemist’s job but being paid as a lab assistant (much lower). 

The boss even wrote me a good recommendation letter (he was known not to be a generous person with compliments or money but he was kind enough to write me the letter). While all my schoolmates applied for engineering (why science students can only think of being an engineer?) or IT. I targeted specifically for chemistry courses.  I got into chemistry- and even successfully applied for an upgrade (to a better course) because of the recommendation letter written by my boss which I submitted with my upgrade request.

At the same time, I was also taking some management papers because everyone else was taking it. And strangely, except for the first semester when the management lecturer was really plain boring and had a strange way of evaluating students, the rest of the semesters I was excelling my management papers- especially those like marketing, entrepreneurship, basic accounting (even though I have no prior basics in accounting before). And the scores for my chemistry papers were of lackluster- in regions of B minus and Cs.

Because I was working during the breaks doing mostly office jobs (I found these jobs myself through classified ads/job agencies), I realized that my calling is to work with people, not with chemicals or in labs. I was happy previously as the lab assistant job because I had friends- and these people had treated me like their ‘little kid sister’.

But during a few office jobs that I’ve taken during semester breaks, I was to help one boss to organise a seminar in a hotel. I did it single-handedly- by calling his clients/suppliers, sourcing the right hotel and making arrangements with them, RSVP those attending- till his seminar was a success, I knew for sure I studied the wrong course- that time I just finished the first semester of my second year.

I forced myself to study to make sure I pass all my chemistry papers and to get a degree. I was lucky that my management papers helped my grades a little. After I graduated, while my course-mates were searching for chemistry and engineering jobs, I search for jobs in the service industry. Because of my holiday working experience, I managed to land myself with one of the market leaders- and worked in the company for 9 years till I resigned last year and went travelling.

My point in sharing the story with you is for you to realize that by getting a job that exposes you to people whom you want to be when you grow up, you have a clearer direction. You can potentially save yourself years of trial and error when you work and observe those around you when working. It sure beats spending the holiday just holed up in front on the PC doing chats, Facebook and games or watching TV- you can do that after work but don’t just do it the whole day.  

Your skills, preference, interest, life’s direction would evolve with time – it’s not carved in stone.   Many of my former colleagues are now upcoming successful people in various industries. We have all begun from the same point, doing the same job- and with time, we realize our individual callings. I’m probably the ‘rebel’ of them all, as I’ve always been, choosing to love content management, websites and blogging- despite nearly flopping my Internet & Multimedia course during university (had it not been my friend who wrote the entire html program, I would have gotten at least a C).

Accept and embrace change- but don’t get too worried about it either. When the time comes, you would know what to do- with a bit of courage and hard work, you would succeed.

Most importantly, try something- even jobs that is labor intensive if you cannot find suitable office jobs (since times are hard now). And when working, observe successful people around you. By doing this, you can save years of being stuck in a job you do not like because you took the wrong major in college.

In the next article, I will explore other alternatives you can also consider- you can start young and build up good income that can trail off.

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