Since the fall of 2011, I have worked at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government library, first as both a regular circulation assistant and a collections assistant and later just as a collections assistant. Initially, I averaged 20 hours per week (the limit for any full-time student on campus through work-study) but this year I kept it at 10. The difference between last year and this year has shown me a couple of things that I feel are important for anyone considering term time jobs while at HDS.
First, every term-time job is different and comes with different levels of commitment. Students decide to do term-time jobs (whether on- or off-campus) for any number of reasons—additional income, extracurricular opportunities, new experiences, or any number of other reasons. I figured since my interests are in religion and politics, it made sense to work around books and to work in the context of a school focused on government. I will admit, though, that I didn’t fully “count the cost” of dividing my time (especially 20 hours!) between a term-time job and full-time schoolwork before diving in. I can’t emphasize enough that if you are considering work (even if it’s part-time and only for a few hours a week), consider the ways in which this will change your commitments for the semester. This year I decided to cut back from 20 to 10 hours because I needed to spend more time in other areas of my life—doing more reading, spending more time with my fiancée, and just generally investing in my overall health by devoting more time to rest and relaxation. Make sure you know what the job will require of you before you dive in. It will make your life less stressful and hectic in the long run, especially when you realize that you need to change things around.
Second, term-time jobs are more than just a resume-builder, a financial supplement, or an opportunity to further your interests, whatever they may be—term-time jobs are also a way of committing to sharing your life with new people and forming new relationships, even with your bosses. I know it sounds cliché but it’s true. I know just about everyone at the Kennedy school library (and many Kennedy school students, too) and it’s honestly been a blessing to share life with them and learn about their lives. In some ways, when I’m at my job, I forget that I’m a student and feel more as if I’m simply a fellow co-worker. We talk about anything from kids to gardening to weekend trips, musical tastes, the best cuisine in Boston, travel and so much more. While I continue to work diligently, I am finding that in some regards, it’s almost more important to take time to invest in the people around me—to know their names, their families, their hopes and dreams and to share mine in turn. By doing that, it “humanizes” the experience of work in a way that doesn’t just develop into a means to another end.