Starting in middle school and throughout high school, I have had my fair share of part-time jobs, and every one of them taught me a valuable lesson.

When I was 12, I began work as a swim school instructor, and I taught children the basic skills of a sport that some would continue to pursue as a full-time extracurricular. I am a swimmer and I have been swimming since I was 6 years old, so it was only natural that one day I would end up teaching swim lessons.

It was long, tiring, and very cold at some points, but ultimately I cherished the time spent teaching children something that I love to do. The lesson that I learned from that job was patience. Working with kids, especially the wild ones who don’t like to listen, taught me a virtue that I know will serve me for years to come.

When I was 15, I got a job at Target working as a guest advocate. It was a seasonal position, and I only worked during the holidays. I was able to work with and attend to all different types of personalities. To put it simply, it was very character-building.

My third job was a sandwich maker at Quiznos. I started working at Quiznos in June 2020, right in the middle of the pandemic. The job was something I had needed after spending what seemed like an eternity of life indoors and isolated.

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I loved working at Quiznos. My coworkers and my boss were amazing people that I enjoyed working with, and there was always a story about somebody that I could come home and tell my parents about. However, working in fast food can be difficult. There is a lot of food prepping and cleaning that has to be done, not to mention the constant two-hour lunch rush in which 50% of all Mayo Clinic employees and patients decide to enter the store at once. The rush was intense, but in a weird way, I enjoyed it.

Most customers were patient, and because I worked with great people, the time passed by quickly. Ultimately, I quit my job at Quiznos because I had to go back to school, but it was a job that taught me another life lesson: efficiency. When five patrons would enter the store at once, the goal was to get them their sandwich as fast as possible so as to serve the next customer without them waiting for too long. The skill has carried with me throughout several homework assignments and with my other job as well.

In November 2020, I ended up going back to Target, and I continue to work there now. Throughout my work experience at Target, I have learned to be open-minded. Not everyone will be patient, but you never know what someone might be going through. My coworkers come from all different backgrounds and there is a lot of diversity in the workplace, which is something I appreciate.

Ultimately, working in customer service has taught me many different skills that will be useful in all different aspects of life. Having a job while being a busy high school student teaches the importance of time management and gives a sense of financial independence. I always gain a sense of satisfaction when I check my checking account every two weeks and see the balance increase.

In the end, although each job came with its own perks and drawbacks, I have come to appreciate and value each lesson I have learned.

Ava Gustafson is a senior at Mayo High School. Send comments on teen columns to Jeff Pieters, jpieters@postbulletin.com.