Paychecks lure students into the labor force for the first time in jobs ranging from parking attendant to karate teacher.
With a satisfied smile, Vivien Mao ’12 fondly recalls the time when Chloe Lister ’12, Shana Saleh ’12, and Graydon Feinstein ’12 visited her at work; she had to remain professional despite her tendency to laugh with her friends, treating them as ordinary customers instead. The most rewarding part, she said with pride, was being complimented on the quality of the food that they purchased.
Mao has been working at Freshii, a health food store on San Vicente Boulevard, for four weeks now and has thoroughly enjoyed it in spite of the exhausting toll it takes. Mao works on Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays for a total of 26 hours per week.
Though she worked as a paid intern in the summer, this is the first paying job she has had during the school year, and she says that the two are very different.
Mao prepares salads, bowls, wraps and soups, in addition to working as a cashier. Despite how strenuous the combination of work and school is, Mao says that working has improved her time efficiency skills.
“It is gratifying to come home after hours of work, or when a customer really thanks you, or when you get your paycheck. It is satisfying, exhausting, crazy, and fun,” Mao said.
Although she gets along very well with her co-workers and boss, Mao never expected that juggling a full school schedule and work would be as challenging as it has been thus far. Still, Mao says that she loves her work, even though she sacrifices a lot of her time working late hours.
Mao had been looking for a job for a while, and when an opportunity at Freshii presented itself, she took it with determination wanting to help pay for all that her family has given her.
“It’s definitely not enough to make up for the cost it has been to raise me, but I try my best to help out,” Mao said.
As soon as summer began, Jean Park ’11 started her search for a job. Park decided to apply online to many amusement parks, figuring that they liked to hire a full time staff for the summer.
“I didn’t actually think they’d respond because last summer no one responded to a lot of the online applications. Surprisingly though, I got a call from the operations manager at Universal Studios and she asked me how old I was. When she found out I was a minor, she told me I didn’t really have a chance at getting this job. However, two weeks later, I got a call from her again and she asked me to go to the Operations Building on Universal Citywalk. I was interviewed and then hired on the same day. The next week, I began training,” Park said.
Park worked as a parking attendant at Universal Studios. Everyday, she would “clock in”, and get her radio and flashlight if she was working a nightshift. Then she would call for “dispatch” over the radio and find out where her first position was for the day.
“As a parking attendant, I would greet guests and then direct them toward the tollbooths or the parking structures. We had to memorize lots of general information about the park if guests had any questions. Generally, your first position is where you are for at least 3 hours of your shift. The Dispatcher would decide when to replace you or let you have your break over the radio. My favorite part was probably meeting new people. All the parking attendants knew each other and the environment was very laid back and fun,” said Park.
Park is still at Universal Studios part-timeworking night shifts during the week. She is currently in training to work at the tollbooths.
It’s 1 a.m. on Sunday morning and Maguire Parsons ’11 is driving home after a long, eventful day – at work. As an assistant pastry chef at Campanile Restaurant on La Brea, Parsons works 10 hours each Saturday prepping and plating food.
“It’s California cuisine with Italian influences,” Parsons said.
He started working there this summer after he asked his brother, the then assistant manager and sommelier, or person in charge of wine, for a job. During the summer he worked Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, but when school started he cut it down to just Saturdays.
However, the time commitment is still large, and sometimes makes it difficult to manage all his school work as well.
“I mean, I can’t do that much work on Saturday, and Sunday I like to sleep for a long time, and I’ve got a lot of other stuff going on,” Parsons said.
“But it’s worth it,” he says, “It’s a free culinary education and I get free food.”
He gets to the restaurant at 3 p.m. on Saturday, and spends three hours prepping food. He prepares things like cobbler, ice cream and panna cotta, which is an Italian dessert made by mixing cream, sugar, milk, and gelatin and topping it with berries, caramel or chocolate sauce.
Then he goes into service, which he describes as “when the first reservations come in to be served.”
During this time, Parsons plates the food, as well as doing additional prep if not enough food was prepared before. Prepping involves making designs on the plates with the food and just generally making it look nice, Parsons said.
He says his favorite part is finishing a long line of tickets. Tickets consist of food orders that Parsons must plate and prepare for service.
“It’s so satisfying,” he remarks.
Campanile opened in 1989 and has since had a reputation of culinary excellence, Parsons said. It was the recipient of the James Beard Foundation’s Outstanding Restaurant Award in 2001 and 2008.
This job has sparked a culinary interest in Parsons.
“I like food a lot, but I never really cooked before. Now I do pretty much every day,” he said.
When asked if he has any interest in pursuing a career in the restaurant business, he remarked, “I could see myself owning a restaurant.”
—Mary Rose Fissinger
Although Rachel Katz ’11 is still a senior in high school, she works between four and 10 hours a week after school at Karate Families, a Shotokan karate dojo in Tarzana.
Katz has worked at Karate Families since January 2010.
Katz heard about the job through one of her Senseis that owns the studio.
She plans to keep her job until she heads off for college next September.
At Karate Families, Katz instructs children ages three to 14 in the art of Shotokan karate. Shotokan karate is a martial art form created by Gichin Funakoshi in Okinawa Japan.
“Mostly I constantly pump Purell to avoid getting sick after sparring with a bunch of squirmy tots,” Katz said.
Among the different activities Katz does with the kids, she said her favorite thing about teaching karate is seeing a student improving and really understanding a technique or kata (combination form).
Katz said her least favorite thing about teaching karate is when the children test her limits. “I’m dreadfully impatient, so when a kid is testing my limits for the sake of, well, testing my limits, I get frustrated, which makes it harder to teach,” she said.
Katz has been a black belt for seven years.
“I felt indebted to my Sensais who taught me karate from the ground up, and I wanted to share the same thing with other kids,” she said.
“It’s also a great way for me to ‘master the basics,’” Katz said. “I’m always understanding old techniques in new ways because teaching has forced me to. My knowledge of why I’m doing what I’m doing has become a lot more thorough through explanation.”
During a lull in business, Matthew Lee ’11 and a co-worker debate about the best way to bag popcorn. They have narrowed it down to two ways since the bags get stuck together: the wrist flick or the corner to corner method. The wrist flick looks suave, but sometimes causes the bag to rip, so Lee needs the exact motion of the wrist flick perfected before he can use it. This is just one of the many aspects that Lee enjoys in working at the Aero Theatre three to four times a week.
Lee, like a growing number of students, is a part-time employee during school. During the summer, Lee searched for a job in various places around Los Angeles, but was only called back by the Aero Theater, which told him to come back at the end of August when they would have a job for him.
Every work day, Lee has a range of jobs at work including ringing up tickets and food, controlling the projectors and making sure that the theater looks clean.
“I get [to the theater at 6 p.m.] when I work. At six, it’s just the employees getting ready for the night. I go up and check the candy stock and if there’s not enough, I have to run upstairs and get more. I check the ice in the ice box and I also do the marquee, which is the hardest part. I also ring people up at the cash register and work at the ticket booth,” said Lee.
Lee works Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and the weekends. Though Lee still has plenty of homework, he realizes now that he is much more time efficient on days when he has work because he knows that there is a limited amount of time to finish everything.
“When I go home I am in super focused mode and I know I have to do all my homework. On days when I don’t have work, it takes me seven hours to do my homework because I don’t have that sense of urgency,” Lee said.
“Pretty much everyone comes to the movie 15 minutes before it starts which starts a really long line and means you have to go into robot mode. But sometimes you make mistakes with the robot mode, but you just have to deal with it,” Lee said.
Stuffed full of funny stories from the beginning of his job, Lee is never shy to share his tales. He has seen good times and great benefits, but also experienced the small irritations that come with working at customer service.
“The first time I picked up the phone I said “‘Hi, this is the Aero Theater’ and the guy said ‘Hi, Aero Theater,’ so now I just say “Hi, this is Matt at the Aero Theater,” Lee said.