A few days ago I saw this article posted on the satirical site The Onion, and couldn’t help but laugh – not because I found the piece particularly funny, but because I was that teacher about a year ago when I was still working at the theatre:
Part of my job at the theatre was teaching evening acting classes for teenagers. There were a lot of issues with these classes, so enrolment was always low. While this made it incredibly hard to teach, it did mean that I really got to know my students. Before long, I found myself more interested in talking to them about their futures than I did about teaching them acting (which is one of many reasons that I knew it was time to switch careers). Occasionally, students would stay after class and I would give them advice about applying for college or help them out with a job application. That’s how I discovered that I was applying for the same job as one of my students.
This job wasn’t a summer waitressing position, but a part-time retail job at the mall. I knew that my student had a better chance of getting this job than I did, even though I do have some retail experience and she literally only had “babysitting” listed under her work experience. Maybe I shot myself in the foot by doing so, but I told her that she could list me as a reference. Sure enough, about a week later I got a call from the company – but they weren’t interested in booking an interview with me; they wanted to know more about my student. She not only landed an interview over me, but she was also offered and accepted the position.
I wish I could end this little anecdote here, but I ran into another similar situation about a month later. My job searching was still not getting me anywhere, so I was applying to more part time and temporary jobs, including one at a bookstore. When I went in to drop off my resume and application, the staff member was, of course, another student of mine. I guess she didn’t have much pull with the hiring manager because I didn’t get that job either.
A coworker at the theatre was also looking to get out of that increasingly toxic work environment. Back then we used to joke that if all else failed, we had an “in” with the night manager at McDonald’s. This manager just happened to be our high school co-op student (who made more per hour than we did, because our salaried positions included a whole lot of mandatory over time). Thankfully, we both eventually found new non-McDonald jobs, but my coworker was unemployed for months and things got a lot worse for me before they got better.
Unfortunately, it’s not just teachers that can relate to this article/video. Anyone working a seasonal job (like I sort of am now?) will probably find themselves in a similar situation. It is the nature of our chosen career paths, after all. But that doesn’t mean all teachers or seasonal workers are doomed to borrow money from mom and dad or compete with high school students for a summer job. It does, however, mean that we need to listen to the Boy Scouts and “be prepared.”
I knew that accepting a contract position with the college would mean being unemployed and spending another summer searching for the few non-“full time students under 30 only” jobs available. Although I did a lot more to prepare myself this year, I could have/should have done a lot more. Why did I wait for my contract to end before I started applying for something new? Why didn’t I apply for those part time jobs that actually sounded pretty cool? Why did I spend so much money on booze and fast food instead of putting it into my emergency fund? And so on…
If I am re-hired at the college or find myself working another seasonal job somewhere else, I will heed my own advice and hope that I never have to compete with my students for a job again.
Have you ever found yourself applying for the same job as a student or someone much younger than you?
What advice would give to teachers or seasonal workers when it comes to money?
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