By KELLY SMITH
If you take one look at the cars parked in UT’s parking garages, it’s pretty apparent that most students are still riding the sweet, savory gravy train that their parents so kindly extended to them. I mean, seriously, who at 21 can afford an Audi or a BMW? And while it’s great and all that these kids have parents who can support them, what exactly do they think is going to happen upon graduating? Contrary to popular belief, money doesn’t grow on trees and a college degree does not guarantee job security (ouch!). Something has got to give.
The most important thing that I have learned in the past few years of supporting myself is that taking on a side gig (a job) in college is one of the most important moves any student could make, regardless of the money they may earn from it. A side gig opens more doors than one could ever imagine — and teaches you lessons about money that you otherwise wouldn’t learn from calling up mom and dad saying, “Can you transfer me some money?” No offense, but I hope they told you no.
Before you roll your eyes into the back of your head (what a shame if they got stuck), listen up. Yeah, I’m a senior here, but I also support myself financially, and I have been, like I said, for the past few years. But you know what else? I also have a job waiting for me upon graduating, which honestly is not common at all these days. I have a decent credit score (do any of you know what that is?) and a savings account. I’m not here to gloat, but I think my parents cutting the cord my sophomore year was the greatest thing they ever did for me.
So, how did I get to this point? Well, honestly, I worked my ass off. I also struggled for the first year or so, lived in a sketchy part of town because the rent was cheap and I somehow survived off of rice and beans for a while. I’m not saying that it’s easy, but I am saying that it’s worth it.
My first side gig was serving tables. After a while, you start to realize that work really feels like work (or is the word I’m looking for “hell”?) when you hate what you’re doing, and that being said, I started to look elsewhere for gigs that I would actually enjoy. Funny thing is, though, no one will pay you a penny when you’re inexperienced; so, yes, I eventually started writing for free while I begrudgingly continued to serve tables.
And it sucked. But it was necessary.
My first writing gig, albeit unpaid, taught me more than school ever did; I learned how to communicate professionally, how to be confident in my work and time management. Yeah, college is busy, but trust me, it’s possible to juggle it on top of a job. I promise.
On top of all of that, that first side gig gave me experience. So you know what I did next? I went and found someone to pay me to write. I was finally able to say, “I don’t work for free! Pay up!”
Once you have experience, doors will keep opening one after the other (granted you’re willing to learn). While I did have to start small, I eventually landed an internship that I could survive off of financially and was able to quit serving tables. I opened up a credit card and started building my credit and as a result, was eventually able to move to a great part of town and live in a nice apartment.
But what if my parents helped me all along the way? Well, I’m not sure. What I am sure of, though, is that I would have zero concept of money or how limited you are in life with zero financial history. At the beginning of all of this, I couldn’t even open an electricity account. That was a big slap in the face, but I learned along the way.
I’m not here to bash you for your parents helping you out — I’m glad they are. It’s awesome that you have a support system. However, why don’t you go out and start building your career, even if you don’t need the money?
There’s this strange belief among people our age that you have to pick two out of three of the following: money, good grades, and a social life. Apparently, you can’t have all three — but says who? Buy a planner. Budget your time — if you start seeing it as money, you’ll be more motivated to get your shit done instead of scrolling through Facebook at the library.
Most importantly, do you really want to be one of those college graduates that ends up back at their parent’s house because they have zero dollars in the bank for their own place? I don’t know about you, but I know my parents would hate me coming in and out as I pleased —- and would definitely not approve of midnight drunk munchies after happy hour. You’ve got some incredible freedom right now, and it would be hard to go back to constant supervision after four years of doing whatever you wanted.
Not sure where to start? Go to Career Services. That’s what it’s there for.
You’ll thank yourself later.
Kelly Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org