5 Useful Things My “Embarrassing” Hometown Jobs Have Taught Me

I’ve worked more embarrassing jobs than I care to admit. In my short twenty-three years of life, I’ve managed to make a series of unfortunate financial choices that made the pursuit of a multiple part-time jobs and side hustles a necessity. The store and bank credit cards seemed like such a good idea when I was nineteen, and taking what I convinced myself to be steps to build my credit, while simultaneously spending far too much money on takeout and new clothes in an attempt to avoid doing laundry for another week. (Shout out to the copious amount of credit card debt I accumulated on the overpriced Victoria Secret underwear that made it possible to only visit the laundromat once per month.)

We all know the importance of a good side hustle, particularly those of us who may have secured a full-time gig, but are still working on getting past the entry-level point. Now, I can’t complain; I managed to acquire a full-time position with the state before I graduated with my degree [insert English major joke here], and the job does have its perks — hello state benefits! However, my salary doesn’t allow for too much wiggle room. Previous poor spending habits and the ever-present student loans means I’ve had to have my part-time job even past my college years out of financial necessity. In order to pay down my debt and indulge in the occasional Starbucks (I’m working on it), I spend my weekends at my current side hustle as a cashier at a beauty store. But I live in one of those small towns where everybody knows everybody else, and your personal business is prime gossip for relatives, exes, old classmates, and that woman you vaguely remember from your childhood who goes to church with your mom.

This familiarity leads to a lot of awkward conversations at the checkout line. Whenever I bump into someone I know, my heart races, palms sweat, and I find myself making excuses, as if what I’m doing is wrong. I always feel the need to slip the fact that I have a full-time “adult” job, or that I’m planning on going back to school and this is just a stepping stone, into the conversation, to appear mature and make myself feel better. Lately, though, I’ve been asking myself why I bother. I don’t owe anyone any sort of explanation — and neither do you. How I spend my free time is my business. Taking control of my finances by increasing my income is never something I should feel like I have to apologize for. Here are some tips I’ve learned on my journey to becoming a more responsible human.

1. You don’t owe anyone any sort of explanation.

Next time you get the misfortune of being the server for that girl you hated from high school, her successful husband, and their new baby, just breathe. Don’t waste your time explaining why you’re working at a casual dining restaurant that’s only slightly nicer than the fast food joint you worked at in high school. Going into a five-minute explanation as to why you’re still single, and picking up shifts in the food service industry, is going to be uncomfortable for everyone. It doesn’t matter if you are there to build savings, pay down debts, or fuel a coffee habit. Politely acknowledge the acquaintance, do your job, and let it go. She probably has to some sort of a hustle, too, and her life is guaranteed to not be as perfect as you think it is.

2. Stop comparing your situation to someone else’s.

Easier said than done, but do not compare yourself to other people. Regardless of whether you started on the same metaphorical playing field as someone else, we all have crap we have to deal with. We all have certain privileges and disadvantages. Stop feeling sorry for yourself because you’re still working two jobs while your friends are getting promotions and moving on to bigger things that afford them the luxury of only working one. Feeling bad about your situation isn’t going to improve it, and hating your friends for their success is petty. Get over it, and work hard, so you can one day be the person people are secretly jealous of.

3. Don’t apologize for being thrifty.

Growing up, I was always so embarrassed when my mom used coupons or bought generic brand products. I thought it was tacky and vowed to never be one of those people. Fast-forward to today, and I’m a coupon enthusiast who utilizes saving apps like Ibotta regularly, and refuses to pay extra for name-brand oatmeal or gluten-free bread.

4. Visualize.

Think about how happy you will be without the burden of debt on your shoulders. Remember this feeling when you’re dealing with an aggravating customer with a superiority complex. (I’m sure you know the type.)

5. Be thankful for what you have.

Check your privilege, and remember how lucky you are to have a side hustle to increase your income in the first place. I’ve had so many awful side jobs: cleaning a disgusting, bug-infested retail outlet in an aging mall, a family restaurant that tried to pay me less than minimum wage, a waitressing position on the graveyard shift that screwed with my sleeping cycle and left me with night terrors for a year, and the aforementioned casual dining restaurant where I was older than the manager, and I had at least four years on my coworkers. Now that I have my current side hustle, I constantly have to remind myself how fortunate I am to have a job that I actually enjoy, and that works with my schedule. Plus, it allows me the opportunity to pay off my debt faster than I ever would be able to without it.

Stop feeling embarrassed about your current situation, and instead, focus on ways to change it. If that means working a part-time job at a less-than-ideal place, then so be it. An extra part-time job is an amazing tool to get you where you need to be, financially. I promise you, people don’t care nearly as much as you think they do about how you supplement your income.

Sierra is a slightly sarcastic millennial whose favorite pastimes include lifting weights, running away from cardio, reading, and eating peanut butter.

Image via Pexels


  • Guest

    If the girl you hated is high school is 23 with a baby and eat in casual dinning restaurants in her hometown you definitely have nothing to be embarrassed by.

  • Caila Henderson

    Holy..this was ME less than 2 years ago. I literally had a script that I would fire off when an acquaintance / relative would inquire about school/career. “Just in the thesis edits phase now!” “Just a temporary gig until I find something better!”
    Then I realized A) Usually the person is genuinely curious and only wants the best for me and/or is looking to figure out their own damn lives. B) Do you! Essentially point 1 in the article.
    Always appreciate the reminder to be thankful as well 🙂

  • jdub

    This is so me right now. I just started a side hustle at my local Superstore last month, and every single shift I see at LEAST 2 people I know. I’m not a chatty person by nature and my job entails filling online orders, so at least I’m not obligated to talk to anyone.

    My first shift I was a little embarrassed, and then I realized: I’m doing this for my family and it’s not anyone’s business how I spend my time! Plus the extra $200/month towards growing my savings account helps to keep that into perspective.

  • V Williams

    This was such a refreshing reminder that we’re all our own path. Loved this!

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