Learning and Labor
April 27, 2017
Lilah Drafts-Johnson ’18
About a month into my first semester at Oberlin, I found myself with a few hours of free time each week that I wanted to spend more productively. I was also operating within my first-ever personal budget, and wanted to expand my ability to be a self-sufficient college student. This was how I stumbled across the Oberlin Classifieds page [updated link: oberlin-classifieds.com], where different offices on campus tend to post job openings. College is expensive, and there is a good chance that you will find yourself wanting or needing a job in your time at Oberlin. This post details a few of the jobs I've had, and my recommendations for navigating professional spaces at Oberlin.
Student Assistant at the Registrar's Office - This was my first job at Oberlin, and I worked here through my junior year. I mostly scanned and filed the forms passed into the office, like Pass/No Pass, Winter Term, or Declaration of Major/Minor forms. What I loved about this job was that it let me take a break from my schoolwork, and I could listen to music or podcasts during work and get lost in that for a few hours. It was a nice break from the stressful academic workload, and I could consistently get the hours I wanted to work each week. The office is also filled with wonderful staff members, who often acted like my Oberlin moms - celebrating my birthday and asking how school was going. This job also taught me a lot about professionalism. I handled a lot of confidential documents and had to be respectful of the information that I saw, and have the maturity and professionalism not to talk about it with others. This job also gave me an excellent understanding of how to complete an Oberlin degree, and I've helped many of my friends with their class schedules and figuring out degree requirements.
Workshop Facilitator for Preventing and Responding to Sexual Misconduct - I worked at the Registrar's Office again this year, but I also picked up a second job with the Title IX Office's Preventing and Responding to Sexual Misconduct program. In this role, I facilitated trainings on consent and sexual violence prevention for first-year students and athletic teams, and also worked to develop new workshops for the school. PRSM has been a great experience, as it's a nice balance of collaborating with the administrative team and my peers. I will say that a job like this one can be difficult with the amount of emotional labor it involves. Facilitating trainings on sexual violence prevention is really important and something I am passionate about, which is why I do it. Too much of it can be very draining, and I have learned a lot about self-care and preventing burn-out from being in this position.
Statistics tutoring - I had done very well in the Intro to Statistics course, and was assigned to two tutees whom I met with to go over homework problems and prepare for tests about once a week. I enjoyed this job because it let me keep up with my stats knowledge, and also practice tutoring and working with others. You can sign up to be a tutor with the office of Student Academic Services, which is located in Peters. More information about that is located here.
Campus Dining Services - Commencement weekend, I also worked for Campus Dining Services, or CDS. CDS offers some of the higher paying jobs on campus, and they also have the benefit of offering consistent hours. There are lots of different jobs you can do -- serving food, working a catering event, making sandwiches or smoothies at Decafe.
Student Writer - I picked up a lot of new jobs this year. I started writing for Oberlin Blogs (yay!) as well as the Office of Communications. These jobs are great because they allow me to practice writing, and the pieces I create can also serve as examples to future employers to demonstrate that I am a competent writer. It is important to set personal deadlines, or communicate with your supervisor to make sure you are producing the amount of work they want. Because I have such flexible deadlines, it can be easy to slack off and not write for two weeks. This is also a benefit, as I can write a bunch of articles when I have free time, and take a break during the busier parts of the semester.
SITES Library Coordinator - I also began to work for the Spanish in the Elementary Schools program (Oberlin SITES). I am the library coordinator, which means I keep our meeting space in Mudd Library clean and help instructors find new resources to use to teach their lessons. This job will transition into being a Grade Level Coordinator next year, where I will be a "supervisor" to the SITES instructors of the 2nd grade classes.
My advice to anyone who is job-searching at Oberlin is to check the Oberlin Classifieds or Oberlin Jobs page often, but also reach out to professors and mentors. Many of the jobs I will be doing next year are a result of the relationships I've built in the classroom, and personally asking professors/mentees for suggestions shows a lot of initiative - which may lead to them offering you a job or sending you in the right direction for one.
Another great resource on-campus is the Career Center. The Career Center has Peer Advisors who can help revise a cover letter or resume, and having an extra pair of eyes on those pieces of an application is always useful. They will also help you prepare for interviews, give you a space to conduct an interview via phone-call or Skype, and can sometimes provide funding for unpaid internships. It's never too early to check out the office, as they can help you link the work that you've already done to what you hope to do in the future.
As time has gone on at Oberlin, I've been able to work in jobs that correlate with my academic and post-graduate interests. Don't be discouraged if those opportunities don't happen immediately at Oberlin; you need to get your bearing and make connections for those jobs to materialize. It's also important to remember that there needs to be a balance between learning and labor. Some of the jobs that I worked my freshman year wouldn't be possible for me now because of the difficulty of the classes I'm taking now as an upperclassmen. I've found that jobs that are more flexible with hours, like writing and tutoring, are easier to fit into your schedule if you have a heavy academic workload or are also balancing sports. Make sure to communicate with your supervisor and negotiate what hours you'll work during the busier parts of the semester. And don't forget - learning and labor might be the official motto of Oberlin College, but taking a break every now and then is important too.
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