Learning Lessons in the Workplace

Jenna Rola, Fall 2014 J1 Student

The Balancing Act

High school students have a lot on their plate.  Students have to balance homework and extracurricular activities, and some students also have the added pressure of working a part time job.

“I only work a few hours during the week, and I work on the weekends,” junior Madison Rubalcava said.  “I never work enough so it will interfere with my school work.  Working is always my second priority.”

Junior Josie McKenna said she did not have as much success in balancing her school work with her part time job at  Pickleman’s Gourmet Café.

“I wasn’t able to balance my work with school,” Mckenna said.  “I am taking a lot of difficult classes, and junior year is really stressful.  I had too much school work and had to quit working.”

Rubalcava said she is familiar with working a lot of hours at her job.  She said working at Cinetopia often required her to work a lot of hours.

“During the summer I worked [at least] 40 hours each week,” Rubalcava said.  “During the school year I work about 8 hours a week.The longest day I have worked was a 15 hour day.  I was exhausted, [but] I made a decent amount of money.”

Sophomore Michelle Koczan said working at the Football and Cheerleading Complex of Johnson County (FCCJC) did not require her to work very long hours.  She said they often give her shorter shifts.

“I work about six hours a week on Saturday only,” Koczan said.  “The longest day I have worked was 8 hours.”

McKenna said her work tried to avoid scheduling her for very long shifts.  She said she had a few long days over the summer, but Pickleman’s was very reasonable.

“The longest shift I worked was 11:00 am. to 5:00 p.m. which was a 6 hour shift,” McKenna said.  “One day I had to work from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., and then I had to return to work from 6:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., which is 8 hours total.”


Rules and Regulations

There are many laws which impact young workers in the United States.  There are child labor laws which set limitations on non adult workers.

“I honestly have no clue about the child labor laws, and I don’t know if I have ever broken one,” McKenna said.

Koczan, who is 15 years old, said she is aware of the restrictions put on her.  She said that laws limit the amount of hours she can work.

“I am fifteen, and I am aware of all the child labor laws for my age,” Koczan said.  “I have never worked more than the legal amount.  My friend who also works in the complex is also 15.  She has worked 12 or more hours at the complex.”

Rubalcava said she was aware of many people violating  and ignoring child labor laws at Cinetopia.

“I don’t think I have broken any of [the child labor laws,]” Rubalcava said. “I know plenty of co workers who have broken the law by working for too long or doing jobs they should not have been.  I don’t actually know the rules, but I think I am fine.”

McKenna said she and most of her friends work for minimum wage which is $7.25 an hour.

“Minimum wage is way too low because the prices for college tuition is outrageous and not affordable,” Mckenna said.

Koczan said she especially likes her job because it pays better than other jobs most of her friends have.

“I make $8.00 an hour which is a decent wage for a high school student,” Koczan said.  “The minimum wage is only $7.25 an hour [plus] tips.”

Rubalcava said she worked a 40 hour week all summer, and she said she did not feel the  current minimum wage is sufficient.

“The minimum wage needs to be higher,” Rubalcava said.  “I worked for $7.25 for more than 40 hours a week.  There’s no way I could support myself on [my] salary much less a family.”


Pros and Cons

Rubalcava said working at Cinetopia has required her to learn a variety of jobs, and she said she gained a lot of experience.

“I do a lot of different types of jobs,” Rubalcava said. “I have worked as a barista  or a cashier in the concession stand.  I also worked in the box office  and a ticket taker on the podiums.  Sometimes I am apart of the cleaning crew, and we clean the theaters.”

McKenna said she learned a lot working at Pickleman’s.  She said  she was surprised by some of the skills important to a job.

“[For] my job it is helpful to have a good memory,” McKenna. said  “It helps when you are making sandwiches, so you do not need to look at the cheat sheet all the time.”

Koczan said one of the hardest parts about working is learning how to deal with customers especially unsatisfied customers.

“Most of my customers are really kind, and I get a lot of really generous tips,” Koczan said.  “Some of [the customers] are very inpatient.  One woman kept yelling at me for taking a long time, and she got mad because I was adding her change incorrectly.”

Rubalcava said she has to deal with angry customers on a regular basis.

“[The customers] mostly complain,” Rubalcava said. “They do not understand — I don’t personally impact their experience.  They do not care about my feelings—they just want to let out steam.   It is the [worst] when customers ask for a manager.They act as if I can help them or what I am saying doesn’t matter because I am a teenager or lower ranked.”

Rubalcava said working is worth it because she is saving for her future.

“I am saving for college mainly,” Rubalcava said.  “I still haven’t spent a dime of [the money] I have earned for my job.”