Four years ago, I walked up the steps and past the tall pillars of Salveson Hall to enter Waldorf College. I was an eighteen-year-old freshman trying to act like I belonged in that hall. I was wearing a white sundress and little white Keds. I was taking determined steps. My father, mother, and thirteen-year-old sister trailed behind me like little ducklings. My armpits were dripping sweat, but I smiled and pretended I was confident. I was a college student now. I wasn’t nervous.
I walked to the Admissions Office and met with my counselor. This was my third time sitting in the straight-back desk chairs of his office, my third time studying the giant world map pasted on the left wall. My counselor was a wonderful man with salt-and-pepper hair. He offered me a part-time job, an office assistant, and I eagerly accepted.
Flash forward and here I am: age twenty-two, still behind that assistant desk.
Let’s be straight about something for just a moment. Nobody likes a desk job. Not a minimum-wage (which is less in Iowa by the way) desk job. Not a crappy, minimum-wage desk job that requires hours of hunched-over filling, answering never-ending phone calls, and logging monotonous numbers and information into computer programs. And if you like that kind of thing, well, I guess to each his/her own. But for me, a desk job was not appealing. But a job was a job. My first college job. So I took it with open arms.
Being an Admissions Office Assistant is compiled of many tasks under one title. As the assistant to the Office Manager, your job is to answer any/all phone calls that come into the college switchboard. This means you will handle anything from “I need my transcripts to be sent to Unicorn College by tomorrow” or “I don’t know what microwave to send my son Billy Bob with” or “How do I find out what dorm I’m living in?” or “Who do I talk to about my student loan?” Pretty much everything you can think of, I’ve gotten a phone call for it.
Another task is to send student mail. This means you send mailings to thousands of students, all of which are addressed with hand-written envelopes and hand written notes. You’ll create spreadsheets of information. You’ll add that information to the computer. Any questions or inquiries about college programs? You’ll add and sort those. Any files need to be put in their correct place? That’s you, too. And one of the most important things: applications. You will enter those, assign them to an Admissions Counselor, make a folder, send a card in the mail, and help the counselor get in contact with that individual.
So you’re pretty important. That’s at least what I learned by year one, month two.
Over the course of four years, I learned that my job was an essential part of the office’s daily ability to function. Without me, someone would have to answer and redirect all phone calls. Someone would have to enter information (which counselors don’t usually have time to do). Someone would have to find, sort, and pull files. And someone would have to organize and keep all student information in the right place.
I’m not saying the office could run without me. No. I’m just one person, and a college kid at that. But without my job, the office would not have ran so smoothly. And that’s a fact.
So what’s the point of all this? To remind you that the crappy desk job is always worth it.
Going in, I had no idea I would slip easily into the routine of a professional career, that I would meet people in a work environment that would become my friends, that I would learn the ins and outs of how a company functions, that I would learn responsibility and timeliness, that I would become well versed in professional language and able to communicate with others from the parents that walked through the door to the Director of Admissions, or, most importantly, that I would gain experience that would help me as I searched for my long-term, post-graduation career.
Take that crappy desk job. Take the job that you don’t really want. Take the job that only pays $7.25 an hour. It will probably feel not worth it at times, especially when you’re only on name 57 out of 2,690 in a Chegg list of potential college applicants to be added to the computer system. But it will be worth it on the days you help a frazzled mother fly home without extra fees, when you help a twenty-year-old transfer from Brazil register for classes, when you help a 1969 alum find his long-lost roommate, or when you finish a long list and think of all the potential prospects are now available to come to the college.
It will be worth it when you realize you have great interpersonal skills, when you can put a smile on your face despite the stress, and when you realize all that you have learned and handled over the past four years. But most importantly, it will be worth it when you get your first full-time, ‘big girl’ job, and see how much you’ve grown and what wage you now deserve. So be humble, be thankful, and suck it up. It’ll all pay off in the long run. And in the meantime, budget. 🙂