The snow was piled as high as a small dog and the wind roared so ferociously that the temperature dropped almost forty degrees below zero. I stood outside, on a street corner, with a security shirt pulled over my puffy winter jacket. This was one of my first jobs: acting as “security” for a weekend-long outdoor winter festival.
After that weekend, I—understandably—caught a cold and developed a phobia of snowmen and red and green sweaters.
It’s hard to remember why I took a job that I ended up disliking so much. But, looking back, this job was just one of many that young people, such as myself, were expected or encouraged to have: something relatively entry-level that didn’t eat up valuable studying time and bettered the community in some way. In my experience, the people in my community and social circle put a lot of emphasis on the value of a job—i.e. if it contributed to society in a meaningful way.
When I signed up for the job, these expectations were probably nestled somewhere in my subconscious. But I was initially drawn to the job because I was interested in arts and culture and spending the whole weekend in the heart of downtown, as most of the other people working there probably were.
Since I was a teenager at the time, university applications and tuition payments were looming around the corner. I didn’t take the job for the pay (despite hanging out in the cold all day and evoking my inner Bear Grylls, the pay was not very good), rather as an anecdote to put in my future university applications and resume.
In the end, acting as “security” on a lonely street corner did not expose me to much art or culture, nor was it a particularly impressive feat to put on a resume.
Instead of seeing ice sculptures or parades, the wind knocked me over and some patrons—apparently immune to the holiday spirit—harassed me. If I look back at the experience superficially, it doesn’t seem very valuable or meaningful or important. But despite all the evident disappointment, I don’t think this job was a waste of time; in an unconventional way, it was valuable.
As simplistic as this may sound, I would not have known that I disliked the job had I not taken it, and would have perhaps wondered what I’d missed out on had I not taken it. I may not have realized my hatred of spending more than ten minutes exposed to the elements, or my fear of calling the real security on unruly attendees. I learned I’m much more suited for jobs that allow me to huddle next to a fire, indoors, without unwanted intrusions. Like blogging, for instance.
I think it’s valuable for any young person to take on a difficult job (either out of necessity or pressure, as in my scenario, or out of choice and openness) to expose themselves to the new and the uncomfortable. Sometimes, these jobs can lead to insights later on, as mine did for me. Other times, these jobs are just something to reflect upon and laugh at years later… as mine kind of, partly did for me. The value of a job isn’t necessarily what others say it is, or what you initially think its value is going into the job; its value can sometimes come through your own unique interpretation of your experiences, or the ways the job didn’t go as planned.