What do you do for money?

By Tahsin Hyder, 17, Birmingham HS
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Tahsin loves her job because she is saving for the future, and she was able to buy the purse she wanted.

School, sports, chores at home, after-school activities—teens have so many obligations these days. Whether you want a job to help your family financially or you just want to buy that cute Dooney & Bourke purse, you have to ask the question, "With all these obligations, do I have time for a job?"

It was the beginning of fall semester of junior year—one of the most challenging school years academically—and I wanted the extra money for the AP and SAT books. OK, and the Dooney & Bourke purse. But before I decided to look for a job, I considered whether I had time in my schedule. At the time I was waking up at 6 a.m. to finish homework not completed the night before and going to school until 3:05 p.m. Also my volleyball practices went ’til 5 p.m. three days a week, while my games went ’til 6:30 p.m. the other two days. I knew working weekdays was out of the question, so I thought about working weekends. But since I needed the weekend to recuperate from my hectic weekday schedule, I decided to hold off on getting a job at least until volleyball season was over in early November.

Tutoring seemed like it would be fun

After volleyball season was over I was ready to start job hunting. Luckily for me, I didn’t have to hunt long. I remembered a friend of mine was working at Score! Educational Centers, which offers tutoring for kids 4-14. Already I knew I loved working with anyone younger than I was. All my friends call me the mother of the group. Whenever they have problems with guys, school, or just life in general, I’m the one they look to for advice or just to talk. I knew I could help the kids at the center with their problems. Also I could relate to a lot of kids at Score! since I was one of those kids sitting in a 30-40 student Los Angeles Unified School District class, shy to interrupt the lesson to say, "Um … I don’t get it."

There were other places I thought I could work and have a good time: the movies, the mall, a restaurant, but I knew working as a tutor would make me feel good about myself and build experience working with young people.

Since I haven’t been blessed with a car it’s hard getting around. This meant that I had to work close to home. Since Score! was only 10 minutes away from my house, my parents would be willing to provide me with transportation whenever they could. And if they couldn’t, then I could always take a bus to work, which would take only 20 minutes.

After deciding to apply at Score! I submitted an application. When I was filling out the application I made sure to write in my best handwriting. The questions on the application were much easier than I expected. It asked for basic information like my address, phone number, how many hours I could work and when I could work them, and a few questions about why I wanted to work there and how did I think I could be an asset to the center. I explained that I wanted to work there because of my interest in working with children. As for how I could be an asset to the center, I told them how I’m positive, patient and funny. A couple days after I submitted the application I received a phone call to schedule an interview. I wanted to dress appropriately so I asked my friend who worked there what I should wear. She told me that during her interview she wore khakis and a black shirt, which was similar to the uniform that the employees wore.

I nailed the interview

On the day of my interview I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t late, especially since everyone’s clock always seems to be five minutes ahead of mine. I got there about eight minutes early. I walked in and approached the woman I had given my application to, and she said enthusiastically, "Oh, hi! Have a seat right there and our center director will be right with you." I said thank you and sat down to pass the time while the employees worked with the kids.

About five minutes later the center director, Oliva, approached me. Eager, I stood up right away, shook her hand, and said, "Hi, it’s nice to meet you." I began to get nervous because from then on it was one on one. She led me to the conference room, which had glass windows all around it. Then she told me about the job expectations. They included creating a fun and optimistic place for the students to learn as well as office work such as filing and scheduling appointments. I made sure to listen carefully and nodded while she spoke to let her know that I understood what she was telling me.

Then we began to act out what I would do in certain situations. She asked me what I would do if I absolutely could not come into work one day. I thought about what she’d want me to do, and it hit me. If I were in her position I would want my employee to take some initiative and call another employee to work her shift. That’s what I told her and she said, "Bingo!" I let out a sigh of relief and felt more comfortable.

After that, Oliva tossed me an extra Score! shirt they had laying around, and told me to put it on. She wanted me to tutor two kids, about 6 and 8, who were doing their lessons. I knew all I had to do was be really energetic and funny for the kids to like me, so I jumped in right between their two desks and said, "Why hello there ladies," to which they smiled.

Then the 8-year-old asked, "Who are you?" and I told them my name. One of them told me that they were tired, so I told her to stand up and stretch, which we both did. Then after she sat back down on the swivel chair, I spun her around to the computer screen and told her to keep going. The other kid was working on some simple subtraction. She said, "This is hard." and pouted. I told her all she had to do was count with her fingers. She did and was able to solve the problem. I tried to put a light and fun spin on what they were being taught so it didn’t feel so drab. About five minutes later, Oliva took me back to the conference room and said, "I like what I see," and asked me a couple more questions. The rest of the interview went well. I wanted to seem confident so I made sure to give a well-thought-out answer to every question, and avoided saying, "Um, I dunno."

At the end of the interview Oliva offered me the job and told me that she didn’t just hire anyone on the spot. She said that she had interviewed others but that I was what she wanted. My nerves were completely at ease at this point. The job was mine! The hard part was over, right? Not quite.

I had to manage my time better

After I started working I realized that I needed to work harder in managing my time and prioritizing. I found myself going to sleep later and running around trying to get everything done, which wore me out. I remember one night I went to sleep at 2:30 a.m., woke up at 5:30 a.m., and missed first period completely just to finish a project. I knew I had to make a change.

I created time slots for homework, chores, sports, activities, and time on the phone with my sweetie. After this, I didn’t feel as overwhelmed. And I always made sure to make good use of any time I had. If I had a 15-minute break or was riding home, I’d read a little more into The Crucible. Since I took care of some of my homework or chores in the 15 minutes I got here and the 20 minutes I got there, I found I got much more done in much less time. Above all else, I made sure to make a to-do list. Even if it was on the napkin I held my doughnut in that particular morning.

Part of my job, like most jobs teenagers have, is customer service. I try to remember the names of students and their parents or family, and greet them as soon as they come into the center. This can be difficult, especially when I’m paying attention to a million other things in the same minute. The directors at my center frequently ask students how our teaching is going, and if we’re doing a good job. My first time tutoring the kids secured my job. They were asked how I treated them and if they would enjoy having me help them. When they said, "Yeah! She’s nice!" I was employed. Bottom line—a happy client means a happy boss.

My first couple days working, I tried to introduce myself to my coworkers. They were all very welcoming and helped me out with things that they had had trouble with their first couple days. Also, having them around meant I didn’t have to bother my boss with every little question. Since we’re all friendly with each other it’s easy to call on one another when we need a shift covered because we’re all eager to help each other out.

Aside from tutoring, I schedule appointments, check inventory and file. Also, if I ever get the closing shift, I have to make sure that there is scratch paper by every computer, that the pencils have all been sharpened, and that the center looks cleans for the next day.

Now the good stuff! Where does all the money go? Making minimum wage, which is $6.75, and beginning work in late November meant my first couple paychecks went toward the holidays and some birthday presents. Still, I try to save at least a hundred dollars of my paycheck, which I get every two weeks. However, the next couple paychecks will go toward a long-time obsession—clothes. Of course, I bought the Dooney & Bourke purse as soon as the holidays were over!