One of the best parts of an on-campus job is that you can explore areas of interest outside of your major. There are so many perks to broadening your horizons beyond what you are learning in class. You may even be surprised by the connections you make between an on-campus job and your seemingly unrelated major! Working on-campus as a college student provides you with an outlet to explore new career opportunities with the support of other students and faculty.
From my own experience working different jobs as a communications major and Japanese minor, I have been able to broaden my horizons about what careers are available to me. And I’ve learned how I can combine my major and my on-campus work experience to build a career path I am excited about.
UC Davis has more than 100 majors, 100 minors, and 100 graduate programs — and there are more than 100 different on-campus jobs to apply for! Envision yourself driving a London-imported Unitrans double-decker bus through the streets of Downtown Davis. Or imagine teaching students and community members how to ride a horse at the UC Davis Horse Barn. Or picture navigating Yosemite National Park and leading groups of students on camping trips hosted by Outdoor Adventures. There are so many ways for students to get involved, whether you are a newly established freshman or a senior looking to get some work experience before graduation.
Here are five reasons why you should consider an on-campus job unrelated to your major:
1. You make connections with a diverse group of people you may not meet in your classes
Working on-campus gives you the opportunity to meet and interact with a wide variety of people who you may never have met otherwise. For example, there can be minimal overlap between students majoring in biology and computer science. But first-year biology student Natalie Chrisman was able to meet with and become friends with students majoring in computer science, English, philosophy, and more!
Natalie picked her major in biological sciences because it provided her with the flexibility to explore different sectors of the college with a broad perspective, such as taking classes with an emphasis on plant biology or disease-focused courses. Her ultimate goal is going to medical school to become a doctor. Her position at the UC Davis Library as a circulation assistant has allowed her the opportunity to create connections with tons of different students who are not necessarily planning to go pre-med.
“I was able to meet students from so many different backgrounds,” Natalie said, “and the experience has been really valuable to me. Everyone has been so kind and supportive, including the staff I work with.”
Natalie’s experience working at the UC Davis Library also provided her with the space to feel comfortable in the library. She uses time before and after her shifts to catch up on homework. Natalie enjoys having a job in a place where she spends time anyways and gaining skills along the way. She plans to continue working with the library into her next year as a college student.
2. You gain unique skills and perspective that gives you an advantage for future jobs
Oftentimes in interviews, employers will ask you about a time when you had to deal with a challenge you had to overcome or a conflict you had to resolve. You will have an advantage to stand out in an interview if you can reflect on a variety of job experiences you may have had as a student and how you were able to approach problems from a unique perspective.
For example, the fast-paced environment working at the UC Davis Coffee House (CoHo) provides specific challenges and problem-solving opportunities that can be applicable to showcase how you are a quick thinker, flexible, and adaptable. These soft skills are transferable and they show how you would act in different work situations. You can reflect on these experiences in a job interview.
As a member of the 2022 summer cohort for the University of California Washington DC Program, I attended many workshops on interview tips. The students running the workshops often used the UC Davis Coffee House as an example of how student employees could use work experience to relate it to an interview with an employer from Washington DC. Working as a barista is just one example of an on-campus work experience where you can gain a ton of transferable customer service and organizational skills — and these growth and leadership opportunities can be applicable to any major!
There are also times when your on-campus job may provide unique skills to aid you in different experiences within your major. For example, graduating senior Morgan Hall is an anthropology major with a psychology minor, and she has been working as a UC Davis tour guide since her freshman year. At the beginning of this quarter, Morgan went to the Society of California Archaeology conference to present her project to a membership of about 1,100 individuals. Public speaking can be extremely nerve-racking for anyone, but luckily for Morgan, she has had experience public speaking to groups of up to 40 strangers (and walking backwards for an hour and a half!) for four years.
“I had to do a lot of public speaking at this event,” Morgan said, “and most of it was explaining my research. I think being a tour guide really made me more comfortable doing those kinds of things.”
3. You can compartmentalize your work life from your student life
Having a job outside of your major can also help you organize your life. Breaking up your schedule in a way that gets your mind thinking differently is great for compartmentalizing your study time from your work time. And your on-campus job can even be related to a separate interest or hobby you may have!
For example, the UC Davis Global Learning Hub is the center of the study abroad program. Third-year transfer student Jesus Bastian is a global disease biology major with a passion for entering the medical field and becoming a doctor. Jesus chose his major because students can tailor the program to their specific interests, whether that be focusing on animals, humans, or the environment. When Jesus was preparing for his first year as a student at UC Davis, he attended a Global Learning Hub Conference to learn about study abroad programs and saw that the Global Learning Hub was hiring. He applied to work there as a peer advisor and administrative assistant the summer going into his first year as a UC Davis student, and he was offered the position before he even moved to Davis.
Jesus’s experience working at the Global Learning Hub has provided him the opportunity to grow cultural awareness and cultural humility, which he describes as knowledge about different cultures and recognizing their perspective, needs, and boundaries. “This is extremely beneficial for someone with the mindset of becoming a doctor,” Jesus notes, “because I will be interacting with tons of people from diverse backgrounds. Through this job, I have gained more self-awareness and an understanding of the world that can be applicable to my long term goals.”
Jesus also mentioned how working at the Global Learning Hub provided him with the space to take a step back from school and just focus on his job. “Meeting with lots of students to talk about study abroad is exciting,” he says, “and I almost see this job as a hobby. I get to interact with so many people, and everyone gets excited talking about studying abroad.”
Jesus even compares this job experience and the skills he has gained to a position at a student-run clinic. Even though a clinic internship might have been more aligned with his long-term career goals on the surface, the study abroad job has been an amazing opportunity and perspective-changer for Jesus as someone looking to enter the workforce soon.
4. You discover new job opportunities you may not have known about before
Working on-campus gives you the opportunity to meet students and staff with completely different interests and goals. You can discover jobs you may not have known about before!
For example, I myself am a communications major, and I work at the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden as their education special projects intern. I act as a representative of the organization, and I also capture the stories of the nine different internship teams at the Arboretum and Public Garden to publish in their internal newsletter. Through this experience, I have met so many students studying plant biology; wildlife fish and conservation biology; environmental policy and management; and more! These students are people I most likely would not have been able to meet if I did not get a job here, and I am forever grateful for the friendships and opportunities I have discovered through it.
I recently went on a field trip with the Arboretum team to the Eddy Arboretum in Placerville to meet a forest scientist and learn more about tree research — something I would never have been able to do if I was only focusing on work experiences reflective of my major. And, my position at the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden opened doors to me that I didn't even know existed. This summer, for example, I will be interning at the Smithsonian Gardens as an education and outreach intern in Washington DC. This is all thanks to the people I know through this on-campus job. If I had never explored an internship with the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden, I truly believe my life would take me down a different path, and I am so grateful for the opportunities that lie ahead of me.
5. On-campus jobs are extremely flexible, and there are so many resources available!
The last reason I recommend getting an on-campus job is that it is so flexible! All of your supervisors and staff recognize that you are a college student, and they are accommodating to work around your class schedule. There are a wide variety of on-campus jobs to explore and apply for, and so many different people to meet and grow with. The UC Davis Internship and Career Center has a ton of amazing resources to search through to find these positions, and you can always meet with a peer advisor there to talk about your career goals. There are so many unique ways to find work experiences and relate them to your major, and oftentimes they may not be exactly what you expect! So, have fun exploring different areas of interest, and create your college experience to be reflective of the person you are and who you want to grow to become. Get out of your comfort zone, and get paid to do it!
Michelle Lester is a junior at UC Davis majoring in communications and minoring in Japanese. She works as a UC Davis tour guide, the education special projects intern for the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden, and an intern for Strategic Communications.