Ask A Friend: Jobs Edition
Welcome to the final installment of Ask A Friend! During my time as a blogger, I’ve used several posts to interview my friends about their various experiences with Oberlin. Today, we’re talking about WORK!
But first, a few quick introductions …
Caroline is my incredible housemate and close friend. She’s a senior environmental studies major and gender, sexuality, and feminist studies minor from New Hampshire. Caroline is one of the kindest people I’ve met at Oberlin and a really incredible plant mom!
Kitty is an amazing singer, has a great laugh, and is one of my favorite people on this campus. She’s a junior English and history double major from Illinois. At Oberlin, she’s super involved with Nothing But Treble (an awesome a capella group) and OSteel, among other activities.
Cora is one of the most passionate and hardworking people I know. Hailing from Oklahoma, she’s a senior cinema studies major with East Asian studies and art history minors. We became friends when we worked on a documentary together. Cora also brings her talents to her role as a leader of Oberlin College Taiko.
And, of course, Kira is me, just dropping in to tell you a little bit about the jobs I’ve had on campus.
1) Where do you work on campus? How long have you been working there?
Caroline: I work for Campus Dining Services. This semester I worked at Sky Bar and DeCafé and catered a lot. I‘ve been working for CDS since freshman spring and am a senior now, so have been working for about three and a half years. I‘ve also had shifts at Dascomb.
Kitty: I work at the Terrell Main Library and have been the reserve assistant for two years. I also work at the conservatorylibrary and have been a preparations assistant for a year and a half.
Cora: I work in the Admissions office. I have worked there for the last year and half; first as a tour guide, and then as a senior fellow.
Kira: I work in the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion as an office assistant and as a peer educator for the Preventing and Responding to Sexual Misconduct (PRSM) program, both of which I’ve been doing since my sophomore year. I’ve been a blogger since my freshman year. I’ve also worked as a copy editor for the Oberlin Review and a Peer Advising Leader (PAL), though I won’t be going into detail about those here.
2) What's an average day like in your job?
Caroline: For my shifts at Sky Bar, I go to work at 11 am, which is when lunch starts. There isn‘t a kitchen at Sky Bar, so all the food gets trucked from Stevie and I usually start by unpacking that. Then I refill coffee and make sure that everything is stocked. It‘s just me and my coworker, Bernice, behind the counter and we usually just talk for the rest of our shift and refill things as needed! There aren‘t maintenance people at Sky Bar, so we clean up at the end of the day (2 pm). All the trash and everything goes back to Stevie in a truck!
Kitty: An average day as the reserve assistant, usually toward the beginning of the semester, involves pulling books and movies from the stacks to put on reserve for different courses. While maintaining these, I also help process new laptops, chargers, and headphones that are available for students to check out. An average day as a preparations assistant depends on what projects need to be finished. There are multiple different kinds of materials I can prep, such as CDs, music books, scores, etc. I generally look to see if we have a surplus of one item and then begin working on those for the day.
Cora: Most of my time [in Admissions] this year has been dedicated to conducting information sessions where I give prospective students and their families an overview of Oberlin, focusing on the student experience. I also do interviews with students where I talk with them about their interests and academics and they have the chance to ask me more personal questions about Oberlin. I also answer emails for the admissions account and sometimes talk more informally with students and parents in the lobby, often elaborating on topics I brought up in my info sessions.
Kira: An average day in my job as a PRSM trainer is leading a workshop about consent or bystander intervention for first-year students. We typically have about 25 students in a training. I arrive half an hour early to set up, plan with my co-presenter, and greet everyone as they come in. Then we go through the workshop, which involves a mixture of lecture and interactive activities. We do our best to foster a comfortable and inclusive community for all participants. In terms of my office job, I do a variety of administrative tasks and chat with my awesome supervisors. For blogging, I get to come up with fun things to write about for you all–I love it!
3) What's your favorite thing about working there?
Caroline: My coworkers! My shift overlaps with Jane, who is a young mom in dentistry school, who shows her prize-winning rabbits most weekends. Then I work my full shift with Bernice. I have gotten to know Bernice so well and feel so appreciative for all of the work that she does. She tries to know most of the regulars‘ names and will talk to everyone as they come through, which is so above and beyond what her job description is! Both Jane and Bernice grew up in Oberlin, so it is really interesting to talk to them and learn about this area from their point of view.
Kitty: I love both of my supervisors a lot. They are both extremely kind people who have become an important support system for me here. They have also sent countless recommendations for me without a second thought.
Cora: I really like talking with prospective students. and sharing my experiences with them. Everyone who comes here has very different experiences and interests and I always feel so privileged to get even a small peek into their lives. My younger brother just went through the same college search process, so I completely understand how much pressure and stress they are under. When I know I have been able to help someone decide that Oberlin is the right or the wrong place for them, I feel good because I hope that I helped make their decision even a little bit easier.
Kira: I love blogging because I love sharing my Oberlin experience with prospective students and anyone else who’s interested. It’s an incredible way for me to reflect on my life, too. I’m thankful for my PRSM job because I think we’re creating real cultural change on this campus and offering a space for people to ask questions and learn about the nuances of consent. I also love my supervisors and the community I‘ve created through the job.
4) If you could change anything about your job, what would you change?
Caroline: I would get paid more! CDS shifts are waged differently (I think the highest is around $10.50/hr), but my current jobs are $8.90 minus taxes.
Kitty: Honestly, I don't think there is anything I would change about either of my jobs. I truly enjoy both of them and love the opportunity to work at two libraries on campus.
Cora: Sometimes I do get a little tired of repeating myself, but that just comes with the territory. I also will sometimes run into parents who I feel don’t take me very seriously and act as if I am trying to cover something up. I’m always frustrated when people act like I’m lying because I feel that it is my job to present the best that Oberlin has to offer, but not at the expense of the truth. To me, my job is to help people find out if Oberlin is the best college for them, and—at the end of the day—lying about the reality of what the school is like won’t help anyone.
Kira: Sometimes when I do PRSM trainings, some first-year students aren’t too eager to be there, since the workshops are mandatory. It can be exhausting to try to engage those students, but I recognize the amazing opportunity I have to teach people who may not think about consent as much as they should. I always give everyone a chance and really hope that they come away thinking about the topic in a new, more engaged way!
5) Do you have any advice for students looking for on-campus jobs?
Caroline: I think that everyone should work a service job at some point if they are able to! At the beginning of semesters, I usually found myself getting concerned that CDS jobs are not really ‘‘resume boosters,’’ but in reality they are! It is so valuable to have experience working with coworkers from different backgrounds, working with food, and doing customer service. I usually talk about my CDS job in other job interviews and it's great! Anyways, I wouldn‘t recommend doing things with the goal of boosting your resume, but my point is that food service jobs are a really valuable experience and I have learned a ton from them.
Kitty: Looking for jobs on campus was really hard my first year here. I checked the job portal and applied to anything that looked remotely interesting to me, even if I didn't necessarily have every single skill listed. Unfortunately, I never heard back from anyone until I interviewed for my reserve assistant position in the spring of my first year. I worked for CDS my first year here and though it isn‘t an easy job, it does pay very well and the other student workers are fun to work with. I also think it helps get your foot in the door for other on-campus jobs if there‘s something else you're interested in doing.
More students should try working for CDS to see what it‘s like! I guarantee it will change some perspectives and make students who eat in CDS a little kinder to the students working there. Any new students should try to apply to as many positions as they can and also contact people directly to check for job availability if you know there‘s a place you want to work. You really have to be proactive when applying for on-campus jobs, so don‘t be afraid to talk to people about potential opportunities.
Cora: I would say try to find something that interests you if can. I remember going on college tours as a prospie and thinking that it seemed like a cool job. I definitely have enjoyed my work. I also would say try and find something that will change day by day so that it never gets boring. Every time I went into work, I never knew what would happen and it always made my day a little bit more exciting.
Kira: I’d echo the words of my friends: Find something that excites you if you’re able to! Ask around about potential jobs. Be persistent and don’t give up!
6) What skills are you gaining in your job that you think you can apply to your life after Oberlin?
Caroline: I think the most important thing that I have learned (and the most substantial part of my job) is how to interact with coworkers and make a good work environment! Being able to create friendships or just mutual respect with someone is really rewarding, and I will be able to carry that skill with me moving forward.
Kitty: I'm definitely interested in pursuing library science as a potential career, so I hope that my experience working in two different kinds of libraries will open up opportunities for library positions when I graduate.
Cora: I definitely feel that being able to talk with people in a professional and clear manner is an important skill. For a while, I had trouble balancing the need to be professional with my need to stay true to my weird and goofy self. I feel that I have been able to find a balance and I hope I can carry that with me to my work after graduation.
Kira: The office skills I’ve developed are directly applicable to so many jobs! The facilitation experience I’ve gained through PRSM has helped me become a much more confident presenter and teacher. Being a blogger has improved my writing and has helped me create a bunch of conversational writing samples. I'm also so happy that I‘ve been able to think deeply about consent and care for one another as part of my job.
7) Do you have a funny story or great memory from your job that you want to share?
Caroline: I served a beer to Ed Helms while catering for the Board of Trustees' dinner!
Kitty: There have been a lot of wonderful moments working at these jobs! Most recently, one of my supervisors rescued a kitten that he and his wife found on the windshield of their car. The kitten is still really young so he needs to bring him to work and bottle feed him every few hours. The kitten, Luca, is so small and so cute. It was fun seeing students in the midst of finals gathering around the circulation desk to see the tiny kitten. He‘s definitely become the most popular creature in the library.
Cora: One time I interviewed a student and I felt so strongly that he belonged at Oberlin. We had a really nice conversation and I encouraged him to strongly consider coming here. A few days later, he emailed me and told me he was really excited about the possibility of coming to Oberlin, and thanked me for encouraging him. I don’t know where he’ll end up or where he’ll decide to go, but it meant a lot to me that he enjoyed his time here.
Kira: The moments that have touched me in all of my jobs are those in which I find out that someone has been positively affected by my work. When a student tells me that my PRSM trainings have helped them feel safer on our campus, I know that I’m where I need to be, doing work that really impacts people.
One of the greatest blessings of being a blogger has been all the people that have come up to me and said that my blogs helped them choose Oberlin. It still happens periodically—whenever it does, it really makes my day.
Thanks for reading and sticking with me through these wild four years!