As I scoured through student job prospects, I decided to rule out low pay-high hours work, as well as jobs with set hours during school time. There weren’t many. In perusing another rag sheet I saw the posting “part-time church janitor with apartment”, near my school, and gave them a call: Flexible work plus housing, why not? The church deacon who showed me around asked what I knew about cleaning a furnace boiler nozzle. I couldn’t fake the fact that I had never been within 10 feet of a boiler and didn’t know where the nozzle was or what it did. He showed me, I tried it, and bam, I got the job. It met all of my criteria: part-time, flexible hours, good pay, easy to learn skills, and for cappers, free housing.Jumping ahead 6 months I liked the work except on Sat evening weddings, where rice throwing and candle dripping on the carpet required 2-3 extra hours of clean up, all of which had to be finished before Sunday church service starting at 8am.
One day I was cleaning the social hall tile floor and in walked a 13-year old kid named Robbie, who lived next door, but didn’t attend church there. He had seen the basketball hoop I put up outside my church apartment door. As he watched me dust and then start to mop the floor he asked if he could help. At first I said no, but when taking a quick bathroom break I came back to see him mopping away, showing more skill than I had demonstrated. I thanked him, offered to let him continue if I could pay him. Two hours later he had helped me dust, mop, wax and buff the large social hall floor, eager to come back tomorrow to do some more. I handed him $5 and said it was fine to return if his parents approved.
Trouble? Not 10 minutes later his mom returned with him and the $5. She said helping out was fine but was concerned about the pay. I asked her to tell me more and she said I had overpaid her son by at least $3, and he could work for me but for only $1 per hour. Bam – problem solved. Robbie was terrific, and took on numerous chores, all with approval by the church secretary Evy. I was telling my classmate Howie bout Robbie and he requested to do heavy work for me, knowing it was difficult for me to carry the heavy buffer up 3 flights of stairs to buff the church classroom floors once a week. I asked how much pay he required and he said $6 an hour. Done! So between Howie, and Robbie’s incredible help, my primary work responsibilities narrowed to cleaning bathrooms, and scraping the furnace nozzle. I had backed my way into becoming boss – and everyone was happy.
Lesson Learned: Sidelines work!
That job lasted 2 years. From then on, I decided that I could not only afford to cover my school expenses through part-time work, but could actively pursue my next part-time activity so long as it was something I enjoyed, could [learn to] do well, and for which people would pay me better wages than I could secure in most fixed-hour school jobs. Being enrolled in the business school taught me macro business skills, not how to run a successful part-time business where I called the shots. While I didn’t love being a janitor I did thoroughly enjoy doing physically active work, having very flexible work hours, delegating work to 2 great helpers, making my “customers” happy, and feeling like I was doing something that mattered.
I became a devotee to Student Sidelines although I never called it that at the time. If anything I referred to it as ‘fun work’, because I knew it made sense to do something on the side that could support me, that taught me a lot about working with people, and that didn’t divert me from my bigger career goals. I did Sidelines all through my master’s and PhD program. And then after I became full time college teacher I started the Sideline of my dreams – that lasted 30 years! In the classroom I was Dr. Clark, and on the dock at Moss Bay I became “hey you” – I enjoyed doing both immensely, but learned more valuable life skills as owner and part-time boss at www.mossbay.net <http://www.mossbay.net/>