5 Ways To Cope With a Minimum Wage Job

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College reveals a lot about yourself: the limits of your inhibitions, the strength of your character or the resolve of your convictions. It also reveals how broke you actually are without your parents’ assistance. College teaches you a challenging lesson: independence comes with a very expensive price. You may have to secure a lower-level minimum wage job to support yourself. These can feel rough sometimes. Cue crappy managers, rude customers, and the occasional idiot co-workers. However, don’t lose all hope. You can try a few tricks to elevate this lame but necessary experience from something barely tolerable to an activity you find enjoyable.

Here are 5 great ways to cope with your less than ideal minimum wage job.

1. Co-Workers are Friends. Not Food.

The Office

Imagine the anxiety you feel when your teacher asks you to get in groups with random classmates for a assignment and multiply it by twelve. Shoving people together in a building and forcing them all to work with each other seems like a recipe for disaster, especially when it comes to making lasting relationships. However, you should not look to your fellow co-workers as people you have to deal with, but rather as brothers and sisters-in-arms. If you live in a college town, these fellow workers will probably share the same reason for working as you: Money feels more than a little tight. While you may not necessarily act mean or hostile towards them, staying distant and apathetic ends up just as bad. Try actively seeking out some sort of friendship. “I haven’t had many jobs in my life, but the thing that gets me through my current one the most are the people I work with,” said Florida Agriculture and Mechanical University grad student and Chick-fil-A employee Desmond Nord. “Sometimes your co-workers are the only thing that can keep you sane on the job.”

Don’t look at your fellow workers as adversaries. You should make an effort to band together with them in order to combat the tyranny of the dumb customers that often bother you. You can form some of the strongest working relationships through bonding over complaining about the job itself. Give it a try. It only makes the next paycheck arrive that much quicker.

2. Be Your Own (Wo)Man

It never hurts to remember that you are a strong independent person who don’t need no man. As much as work relationships help you survive your brutal days, you should not depend on those friends to complete work as efficiently as you do yours. Ideally, all of them work to the best of their abilities. However, more than likely you will find someone who keeps their eyes glued to their phone, shows an astounding display of incompetence or some weird mixture of the two. Because of this, you should go out of your way to learn as much about all of the job positions that your employer offers. Hired solely as a cashier? Learn about what happens behind you in the kitchen and the location of the stock room. This type of initiative benefits you in more ways than you could know. It will make you available for more shifts since you know how to do more than one thing (and more shifts = more $$$). It will also allow you to stay busy and makes the time go by a bit faster.

Most importantly, interest in the way your job runs gets you to a position of authority quicker where you can begin to find your way into the real world with a more legitimate position and a larger paycheck. “An important part of me becoming manager was that I just took the time to learn how to do everything,” said Tallahassee Community College student and Assistant Manager at Regal Governor’s Square 12 Sarah Watkins. You are a strong, independent college student who doesn’t need to depend on your fellow workers. A willingness to learn a bit more at your job will prove to only benefit you and help you work pass the stresses that your current position may cause.

3. Practicing People Skills

Use your less-than-stellar work environment as a learning experience. Customers can seem like the absolute worst. They can look down on you through their entitled eyes and see nothing more than a uniform designed to serve their entitled and inconsiderate appetites. However, for every terrible customer experience, a customer with some sense and manners will grace your presence. Use both types of customers as a way to practice your people skills. Make your brief exchange with them memorable by trying out different jokes or phrases that can make others smile.

You may think, “Why would I put in so much effort to deal with people who probably don’t care about me at a job I don’t like?” The answer to that revolves around training you to appear more charming and affable both inside and outside of your work uniform. If you can put a smile on someone’s face here, you could potentially do it to someone across the way at a party or local bar. This by no means should indicate that you should use this as an excuse to try your best pick-up lines or double entendre. But practicing the art of making somebody smile can not only brighten someone’s day, but brighten your social future as well.

4. For the Love of God, Treat Yo’ self!

The pile of work from biology has gotten so high on your desk it might topple over any moment. Working at a minimum wage job can often feel tough, especially when you couple it with the stresses of your schoolwork. While you may save your hard earned paychecks for something big in your future or even just use them to pay your monthly rent, don’t disregard the importance of “treating yourself.” Using your own cash to purchase something that you want puts your minimum wage position in a different light than simply the paying bills. Buying yourself those 30-piece wings for your cheat day or going out to the club on a weekend helps you realize one of the major reasons that you choose to hold down the grind in the first place.

Sure, you have the adult tasks of paying bills, responsibility and building character. But sometimes it takes some selfish and frivolous spending to make one recognize the finer things in life. “The best way to treat yourself is with food and I can’t do that without my dumb job,” said Tallahassee Community College student and Decent Pizza cashier Debin Hammons. “Those moments kind of make the job worth it though.” Don’t disregard paying your rent and buying your groceries. But if you find that you have made more on this week’s paycheck than expected, don’t feel afraid to remind yourself why you put up with you current job.

5. Recognize Your Luck


It may not seem like it now since you have the job, but remember when you frantically scavenged the Internet to find a job a while back? Not a fun time, huh? The number of people looking for hire many times far outnumbers the positions posted. Whenever you begin to get fed up with your current position remember this and count yourself lucky that you have a means of procuring income.

Your job may not feel ideal for your decided career path, but, barring any extreme or inappropriate behavior from your co-workers or managers, you should recognize your position as one of the employed as a step ahead of the average, unemployed college student. “It was hard to find jobs around town in a way that would fit my schedule,” said Florida State University alumni Vik Gittani. “I sent my resume out to what felt like 50 to 100 different employers and rarely ever got a response.”

If you find yourself in a position where you feel like you cannot deal with the stresses of your minimum wage job, consider how you would live without it.

Chris is a Senior Editing, Writing, and Media major at Florida State University with minors in Film Studies and Music. He is a lover of all things nerdy and hopes to inspire others through his writing and commitment to enacting social change.

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