Undeclared: How a Part-Time Job Helped Me Discover My Future Career

Category: Experiential Learning

In the summer of 2014, I turned 16 and began looking for my first job. Like most young people, I wanted a flexible job that was easy, convenient, and paid well. And I found it. I got a job as a kennel worker at a vet clinic just down the road from my house. I was considering becoming a veterinarian, so the position was a perfect opportunity to learn more about the field. I worked there for six months, and I gained a lot more than just experience and quality time with puppies—I learned what I didn’t want to do with my life. I walked away from that job after realizing I no longer wanted to be a small animal veterinarian. From what I could observe, the job was too repetitive and involved a lot of interaction with pet owners (who ranged from uncooperative to neglectful to downright crazy). I wanted to work with animals, not the general public.

My next job was in food service, where I discovered my undying hatred for customer service and the best way to spread sauce on a sandwich (it’s with a rubber spatula, trust me). That job lasted a year and a half, and I walked out after buying my first car and realizing some crucial things about myself and what I wanted in my future job. I discovered my need for autonomy, my skill for prioritizing, and how much I enjoyed teaching others. I knew I wanted a job where I could be independent, in charge, and flexible with my methods for accomplishing tasks.

At this point I was 17 years old, and starting to worry about careers and college majors. I have always been skilled at speaking and writing so I began thinking about majoring in Journalism, which led me to Mizzou. I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted, but I wanted to explore the different career options in that field. After doing some research I became very interested in Strategic Communication.

I started here at Mizzou as an Undeclared Journalism major, taking J1010 and J1000 and some general education courses. I also snagged a part-time job working with social media marketing and analytics, something I thought I would love. Plot twist: I didn’t. The job taught me just how much I hated working in an office. The physical confinement drove me insane and I found it difficult to concentrate while sitting still.

Over 2 ½ years I’ve held 7 jobs, and each one has helped nudge me in the right direction, taught me something valuable about myself, and allowed me to realize what I don’t want in a career. I realize that there are many things to consider regarding getting a part-time job in college—flexibility, pay, scheduling, other commitments you may have, and whether it will negatively impact your grades, to name just a few. But I am of the firm belief that part-time job experience in the fields you’re interested in is the most valuable thing you can do to advance your career.

Often, when considering their future career, students hold idealized fantasies about their future job. Most of these fantasies are simply due to the fact that they have no experience in the field and no idea of what a day in the life truly entails. Getting an entry-level job in the same field will teach you far more than researching it ever could. Whether you love or hate it, you’ll learn from it.

To help you with your job search, the MU Career Center has partnered with Handshake, a job database tailored specifically for students and alumni. Head over to https://missouri.joinhandshake.com/login to help you find the perfect part-time job to advance your career.