Have you ever reminisced about the jobs you did when you were young, poor and desperate for money?
These are some student jobs my friends and I did while studying at the same time, any way to earn money was better than none.
1. Spiderman mask stapler
I remember spending one night stapling hundreds of elastic bands to spiderman masks. When dawn broke, I’d stapled 600 masks, earned $40 and kena very sore fingers. Never again.
2. Sugar cane presser at Glutton’s Bay
Once there was a Glutton’s Bay next to a Somerset open air carpark, where Orchard Central currently stands.
My friend worked overnight shifts shoving sugar cane stalks into the pressing machine for $5.50 an hour.
Can you find a young Singaporean willing to do that full time?
3. Yahoo/eBay auction seller
Before shopping apps like Qoo10 and Carousell came along, our favourite online marketplace was Yahoo! Auctions.
We could finally list our old books, clothes, shoes, toys and junk. Some enterprising students used Yahoo! Auctions to link to group sprees and other services.
We could spend hours surfing through thousands of auctions and watching the bid till the last second to put in a slightly higher winning bid.
Some of us probably spent more than we earned.
Sadly this closed in 2008, and eBay never quite filled the gap.
4. Banquet staff
This was the higher class version of waitressing, and paid about $7 – $8 an hour. You could wear nice clothes, work in air con and enjoy the night’s entertainment.
As long as you didn’t have morning classes the next day.
5. Science experiment guinea pig
OK I googled human sleep experiment and got some really scary shit photos, so I’m attaching a heart-friendly photo above instead.
I took part in a human science experiment where I had sensors stuck to my torso, neck and wrist to monitor the electrical impulses and my heart rate for 3 day. The caveat is that I had to sleep by 11 pm or something, and record all my waking and sleeping hours in a log book.
Being a young student used to staying up till 5am, sleeping before 12am was a challenge. I went to bed at 11 pm but could never fall asleep within an hour.
Unsurprisingly, I didn’t qualify for the next stage of MRI, and received a $100+ for my effort. Not bad for 3 days of no showers.
There were also human drug trial experiments that paid more, but someone I knew shared how one such trial affected his health and this shows that money is a poor substitute for good health.
6. University computer club admin
Working at the university computer club was a geek’s heaven. Get paid a decent $8 an hour to hang out in a roomful of computers, troubleshoot and sign in/out fellow students.
You could even peek at the matriculation number of the hot guy / girl to find out which batch he / she came from.
7. Tuition teacher
The perennial favourite, tutoring primary and secondary school students on subjects you’re so familiar with, having aced it just a few years ago.
Parents didn’t care if you had an MOE cert. They just wanted someone who could explain the damn problem sums and draw model diagrams to find out Cindy’s speed and Roy’s age.
I started off at a mere $10 an hour, juggling up to 5 students at one go especially closer to exams. This was my favourite job, because it was fulfilling especially when helping students with more than just their homework.
Some students had tense parent relationships, others had low self-esteem and felt isolated from their peers. Even though I couldn’t solve their problems, I would like to think that lending a listening ear relieved some stress.
8. Tuition centre cold caller
Another job I held during the school holidays was cold calling the parents of potential students and selling a particular tuition centre’s lessons.
And no, it is absolutely nothing like the picture. My office at Orchard Plaza was a unit the size of a master bedroom which crammed another 4-5 people inside.
The working space I had was a tiny corner of a big desk to put my telephone and an A6 notepad. I had to stack my pens upwards in a vertical column between my notepad and telephone (an old model with the coil).
I would sit on my IKEA plastic stool and balance the files on my lap, cold calling for a few hours at one go before being tasked to walk to the classrooms to take attendance.
There was only 1 computer in the whole office just for Finance use. Every other task from registration, payment, cancellation, attendance and class transfer was manually written, photocopied and filed. A fire would have destroyed all records.
The colleagues were not very nice either. I left after a month.
9. Party clown
I had a short stint as a volunteer clown at children events. It is like preparing for a wedding – the makeup takes up the longest time.
A trick I learnt is to use cotton pads and Johnson’s baby oil to remove the thick oil face paint easily.
To look less threatening (some children are really really scared of clowns), I reduced the arch of eyebrows and did funny things like waddling up to the kids, purposely tripping over something and using body language instead of talking.
After signing up with a recruitment agency for temporary jobs, I worked in a few trade and consumer shows.
Working at Expo paid $7 – $8, which was more lucrative than Suntec’s $5 – $6.
One consumer show I worked at was the IT Fair where I promoted Canon handheld camcorders for a commission of $20 each.
This was a good lesson on covering your backside with black and white. After I had convinced the customer to purchase the camcorder, I would accompany them to the counter where the distributor and his full time employees stood to finalise the payment.
However I was so keen to go back to the crowd to clinch my next customer that I trusted the distributor to note my name down on the receipt in order to track my sales and hence my commission.
At the end of the show, the distributor claimed I sold fewer units than I actually did.
Without any proof, after arguing for 20 minutes including describing the customers, the distributor wouldn’t concede and withheld my pay and the rest of my commission until I signed the document stating I sold a smaller number.
I gave in and signed the document. The moment I did, the distributor smirked at me in such a nasty manner I knew he had been deliberately dishonest to save that hundred or so dollars out of my commission.
But that didn’t stop me in working as a promoter in other fairs. And I will always remember your company name, D****** (which coincidentally rhymes with the F verb).
What other jobs did you do as a student?
This post was first published on Jules of Singapore.