Walter Augustine is the director of intercultural education and research in the division of Diversity and Inclusion at Biola University and an adjunct instructor at Biola Talbot School of Theology
“You will be getting a job this summer.” That was what my mother told me, in no uncertain terms, at the beginning of the summer after my freshman year. I was an accounting major, and had just returned home from a challenging first year of school. I had worked at McDonald’s while I was in high school, but I left that job after I graduated. I was looking forward to hanging out with my friends and having some down time to recover from school. Then my mother hit me with her no-nonsense, no-wiggle-room proclamation listed above.
As I proceeded to do my best Exodus 4, Moses at the burning bush imitation (I’m not qualified; I don’t know where to start, etc.) my mother began answering my excuses with solutions like “create a resume” and “search for help wanted jobs in your field.” Finally, like God, her anger boiled and she told me, “You will go door-to-door to businesses if you have to, but you will get a job this summer.”
Sure enough, I ended up going door-to-door to businesses in my little town, resume in hand; and sure enough, I found a job! It was a job working as a summer employee in accounts payable for a book publishing company, and it turned out to be one of the most pivotal jobs I have ever had. My supervisor was a retired missionary – she and her husband had ministered for over 30 years in the Middle East. She not only taught me the mechanics of accounts payable, but she was my first business ethics teacher as well. She taught me basics such as how to carry myself in the workplace and how to do my job to make other people’s jobs easier.
I did well enough that summer that I was told I could come back and work with them the next summer and over Christmas break as well. The job allowed me to put extra cash in my pocket for school and allowed me to continue building both my resume and my skills. In my junior year of college, I started looking for internships with public accounting firms, and my work experience helped me obtain a summer internship at the largest and best known public accounting firm in the world at the time – even though other applicants had better grades than mine. I ended up working for five years for that firm after I graduated from college, and have since drawn from the skills I learned there. It all began with my mother declaring to me that I would get a job during the summer.
I found out employers were not just looking for grades. They were also looking for proven experience – can the person do the job? If you have both the grades and the experience, it makes you more attractive to employers and more likely to get the job. So, I want to encourage you not to wait until your junior or senior years to start looking for employment. Get a job now – even if it’s not in the field that you plan on pursuing. Truth be told, about a third of my co-workers at the public accounting firm were not accounting or finance majors. The skills and overall job acumen you obtain can be translated into many other fields, and the job experience looks great on a resume. Therefore, in the best imitation of my mother’s voice, I want to encourage you to “Get a job!”
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