Normally on Fridays, I could care less about where I am or what I do. In fact, I usually spend my Friday nights and weekends at home with family and/or friends, away from Rutgers and the party scene. I enjoy not having to worry about exams, essays, or any other commitments. Last fall, the only “event” I would attend on Fridays was tutoring for Expository Writing at 4:30 at the Plangere Writing Center, as my perspective on that class had changed entirely after “that first fail“. After tutoring was done, I was on the train ride home, excited to get away from the stresses, the wild nights, and the uncertainty that comes with being on the college campus. I was ready for a nice, relaxing weekend in the comfort of my own neighborhood. In case you were wondering, I only live 30 minutes away in Edison, so going home every weekend isn’t a problem. And I didn’t even have to drive. In fact, by the time Thanksgiving had rolled around last year, I was afraid that I would forget how to drive!
This semester, everything changed. I no longer take the train home, as I drive now. I purchased a parking permit to park on Busch (even though my dorm is on College Ave, which perplexes me). The reason for this is because weekends are no longer the stress-free getaways they were last year. Although I have only one class on Fridays, I have a much bigger commitment now than I ever did in all of my high school and college career: I am employed. I now spend most most of my weekends, including Friday nights, with the big-name Walgreens.
Working in retail may have not been my first choice for a job, but since I had no prior employment experience, and because clinical positions at healthcare settings that I originally wanted required prior experience, I decided to give retail a try. Also, I originally wasn’t planning to work during the school year. I had applied to various places over the summer, including CVS, and Walgreens was the first one to call me back with an offer for a position. After going through the employment application, and the long in-store assessment, I was on my way to wearing that uniform.
All of these applications happened at the end of June. There were too many employees in this particular Walgreens at the time, and my employer told me to call back within a few weeks and she would have me begin training. But every time I called back to know about my status, I heard her tell me to give her a few more days/weeks since she didn’t have room for new employees, but that I was next on the list. What I didn’t realize was that this was to go on until the end of summer, since most of the people there were college students, who had no intention of quitting until school started. By the time I realized this, it was already August! I decided not to apply to any more places since they most likely would have been full, and besides, my employer wanted me to work at Walgreen, but just needed some time to get everything together. Eventually, I started doubting whether I would be able to work during the school year, and even thought about going into the store and telling my boss that I wasn’t interested anymore. I wanted to work for the experience, but didn’t want my grades to suffer.
Then, before I knew it, I got the call back on August 29! I was so excited to finally start training that I forgot about any qualms I had possessed. The first official day of work was challenging, having to stock items on the shelves, the cooler (freezing!), mopping the stockroom and breakroom, and then having to ring up sales at the register for the next 4 hours. Those of you who are wondering whether I already started to hate this job, I’ll be honest, it wasn’t the most fun, but I still enjoyed it. Interacting with the customers, helping them with any problems with where items were or how much they cost, and of course, being able to purchase items for 15% off on my breaks are all things I enjoy about this job. Also, most of my coworkers are Rutgers students who decided to stay for the school year, so talking with them really helps me understand what motivates them to work, as well as what study strategies they use for exams. My employer, knowing that I’m a student, only puts me to work on weekends, and I can request off on weekends where I feel I will be busy with other commitments or upcoming exams.
I wasn’t discouraged. In fact, the main reason I decided to keep this job was because it took so long for me to officially start it, and also because I know just how much I am learning. I feel that my social skills and my ability to communicate with people is really improving. Also, I realize now the value of money that comes with working for hours on end, and how important it is to manage time to do well in school. I would usually have no fixed plan to study, and ended up procrastinating on assignments last year since I had so much free time. Now that I’m employed, nearly 10-15 hours are gone every weekend, and it feels necessary for me to plan in advance and distribute my study time appropriately for each subject. Thankfully, I am only taking 13 credits this semester, mostly science and lab courses, so this might be the most appropriate semester for me to work. Walgreens is only 20 minutes away from Busch, but I do have to plan for when I take my car from home so I can use it to drive there, and as soon as my shifts are over, I know I have to reenter the atmosphere of school during the week, but throughout it all I will fight. I will work to keep my grades up, and will never look at a cashier the same way again!
Walgreens also has a pharmacy, and my boss is thinking about training me there soon. I wonder if this job could double as the clinical experience that I passionately seek as a pre-med student.
Either way, I can now officially say that I have prior employment experience!