“Should I take a menial job because I need the money?”

We’ve been getting variations of this question ever since classes ended. The things people thought they’d be doing this summer to gain professional experience aren’t happening. Time hangs heavy, and the expectation that the summer is for making money still stands.

If you’ve thought about taking a job at a food delivery service, warehouse, or grocery, you’re not alone. It’s a reasonable way to cope with the current situation. Here are a few things to help you feel positive about a situation that may feel like a step backward (or nowhere):

  1. Everything counts. Any job can demonstrate to future professional employers that you are responsible, hard-working, and good at communicating and problem solving. Work experience is always relevant, even if you’re planning on a professional path that has nothing to do with your job.
  2. Recognize opportunity. In job interviews, employers like to hear stories about times when you handled a difficult customer or manager, demonstrated the ability to think on your feet, or streamlined a process. Your summer job may give you occasions to acquire those stories, if you keep an eye out for them.
  3. Consider other kinds of professional growth. Your summer job is just one way to get experience and prepare for your future career. Use the time you’re not working to develop some writing samples, build your network, acquire some new skills, get a microinternship, or volunteer (even remotely) for an organization that interests you.
  4. Keep the big picture in mind.  Imagine yourself out on the open ocean in a boat when a storm comes up. The things you do to keep the boat afloat and yourself alive are vital — even if they won’t help you get to your destination — but you still need to have a compass so that once the storm abates, you can continue on your journey. Same thing in times like this: do the things that will get you through this moment, but continue to think about where you want to get to, what you want to accomplish.

The HPRC can help with all of these things, expecially #4. Schedule your own appointment or email humanitiesprc@illinois.edu with a few times that you’re free.