Entry-level position, $8.50 an hour, and graveyard shift are not what Villanova graduates envision as possible employment opportunities. However, while in school, slow money is better than no money. Plus, combining two or three part-time jobs can lead to a surprising bit of cash.
Winter break is supposed to be as the name implies, a break, right? As full-time students, we study relentlessly for half a year and are rewarded by a long winter recess to rejuvenate and prepare to attack another semester. Going to sleep before the New Year’s Eve countdown ends and waking up to a 6:15 a.m. alarm clock on Jan. 1 makes no sense. Let us try not to be over ambitious about what we can accomplish in four weeks. Let us shut off our brain and work ethic for a month and miraculously turn them back on overnight before our first day of class because we are robots, right? Give me a break.
There should be fun and rest, but it should stem from a foundation of hard work just as when school is in session. We can take a month-long break from school, but we cannot take a month-long break from learning.
Working three jobs over this recent break, I learned a great deal from mid-December to mid-January. From 7 a.m. to 11 a.m., I had my hat and apron on making paninis at Panera Bread. From 12 p.m. to 4 p.m., I had my browns on delivering packages for UPS. From 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., I was back on a truck, except this time wearing my red vest unloading packages in the backroom of Target. There were days off, and I rarely worked all three jobs on the same day, but I was in a routine of racing with the sunrise as I jetted from Target to Panera. We could call a memoir about my break, “Arman: Breaking Dawn.”
I learned that working slowly is not excused by perfect accuracy, and 99 percent accuracy is unacceptable for the sake of efficiency. We must be both fast and accurate. At Panera Bread, I had a fixed four-hour shift. In my short allotted time, I had to make 80 to 90 sandwiches, bake bacon, create croutons and stock my panini station. If I was slow, then the lunch rush would arrive and sandwiches would not be prepared, or even worse, we would be selling soup and salad without croutons, imagine that. If I was inaccurate, then customers would complain about the inconsistency of their favorite sandwich, resulting in their receiving a free sandwich, and the company losing money. Maybe the job description sounds easy to you, but I was chastised daily by my managers, yet I will wait 20 minutes for a sandwich at Second Storey without complaining. I feel the prep cook’s pain. But sorry, Dining Services, you only have half of the speedy and accurate formula figured out.
I learned that achievement often goes unnoticed, but mistakes are always addressed. At Target, new weekly circulation advertisements were released on Sundays. Items that were on sale on Saturday at store closing were no longer on sale Sunday at store opening. This means that overnight, every expired tiny price reduction sign you see at your favorite grocery store or supermarket has to come down, and every new sign has to go up. After breaking down and setting up the nearly 20 aisles I was responsible for, nobody congratulated me. Completing assigned tasks correctly is not praiseworthy, even if you do so accurately and quickly. It is simply meeting expectations. On the other hand, if a customer selects a tube of discounted Crest toothpaste from the shelf, takes it to the register and learns that the discount sign was misplaced and the advertised price actually applies to Colgate toothpaste, the customer may complain. If I was responsible for that particular aisle then, although I work overnight and never interact directly with customers, I would be punished for the mistake. Three thousand correctly placed signs are expected, not rewarded, but one incorrectly placed sign is scorned.
As students, we need to work with speed and precision. The expectations are simply too high to afford careless mistakes, and there is far too much on our to-do lists to work slowly. We must always pay attention to detail without the motivation to receive recognition, because we do not control whether or not we receive praise. Hard work too often goes unnoticed. It is imperative that we learn these simple lessons of life while we are young and working low-wage, labor-intensive jobs. And time is of the essence, because the greatest reality I realized this break was that it is almost impossible to support yourself, let alone a family on minimum wage. You can get into a gated neighborhood in the passenger seat of a UPS truck, but you probably won’t be able to stay for long.