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Why Working for Parking May Be the Best Job for You

Valet Attendants

If you’re like most college students, then you’re probably holed up in your dorm room or off-campus apartment eating ramen regularly and watching Netflix on your cable-less TV. What we mean to say is, you’re cash-strapped.

But college life doesn’t have to consist of sodium, noodles and nonstop buffering. There’s a solution. And we’re here to help.

Working for UCLA Transportation isn’t just your typical job. You’re not going to be pushing papers and brewing coffee. You’ll learn some real-life stuff that you can actually apply to, well, your real life.

But don’t take it from us. We talked to one of our student workers, Jeanette Ochoa Sanchez, a lead attendant for Parking Services. Here’s what she had to say.

Jeanette Ochoa Sanchez, a lead attendant for Parking Services

How long have you worked for Parking Services?

Two and a half years.

What do you like about it?

I like the work environment. The supervisors are always giving us a helping hand. Every time they brief us, their closing statement is always, “Make sure you know when your midterms are, your schedule. Please let us know because school is first.” They’re so lenient, and they can accommodate your schedule. I really like that. You build relationships with them and actually enjoy working.

I also like the fact that you’re always doing something. You’re always on your feet. It’s unpredictable, which is good because it’s preparing you for new things. It helps me deal with different people, different situations better, and I’ve noticed this from the first time I started working there. I feel like I can speak and interact and deal with crazy situations much more efficiently than I would have before.  It sounds cliché, but you literally learn every day as you go. It makes you a better person, and it makes you deal with people, and it gives you more patience because you’re just more understanding of others.

It sounds like this job has really benefitted your personal life.

Before, I was in a certain mindset: “People have to respect me. I’m only going to respect people who respect me.” But working and having a job, no matter what you do, no matter how nice you are, someone is always going to be mean, and at the end of the day, you need to be patient. And you don’t take it to heart. You just learn to brush it off. Before, I would feel really hurt when someone would be rude to me. But now I realize that it’s okay, and you just need to do your job, and you’re fine. You grow. You learn. You literally deal with every type of person you can imagine, and you just learn to accommodate.

Now I can definitely deal with people and my roommates—when it comes to dilemmas at my apartment or whatever the case is, I’m way better at dealing with everything. I feel like I am more patient and I’m more reasonable. I’m not as stubborn anymore.

What does your job entail?

I’m in charge of setting up the forms for the attendants, making sure they show up to their shift on time. From there, I deploy them to their stations, and then I’m standing by the phone and radio just in case they have questions. We kind of do the supervisor’s job. We help keep a balance between the office and the field at the same time.

Describe a typical day.

Sign in, check out my van, my radio, grab the shift list, see who’s supposed to come to work, what time, make sure they’re there. When we pick up the attendants, we collect their money, process them, file their forms, and at the same time the phones are going crazy. We get a lot of messages on the radio. We’re kind of multitasking. The phone’s always ringing. An attendant always needs change. You’re always talking to a customer. You’re always picking up someone and moving them to certain locations.

Time must go by very quickly.

Yeah. The only time it’s not busy is when we have no events; we’ll have the typical kiosk hours. But then, there’s no such thing as the perfect day. There’s always a customer that’s angry. There’s always a customer asking for directions. There’s always an attendant who doesn’t know exactly what to do.

How do you deal with an unhappy customer?

I realize that you have to let them know that you actually care. Your intonation, your voice has to change. You have to look at the customer and tell them, “You know, I’m so sorry. I understand what you’re going through. Let me try to make some calls or talk to my supervisors to help you with what you need.” I’ve noticed that even if you don’t resolve what they need, the fact that you actually tried, they’ll tell me, “Thank you for at least trying,” or “Thank you for putting up with me,” or “Thank you for giving me your time.” Even while they’re being really rude, you just have to be a bigger person and try to help.

So you were originally an attendant and then got promoted. What do you think made you stand out?

I’ve always had really good cash handling skills, and for the most part, I was always very social, very friendly. I was always that girl that would walk into the office and say, “Hey! What’s up?” and they’ve seen me interact with customers. There’s a difference between reading the script and being genuine. I’ve noticed it too because every time I would greet customers, I would always be like, “Hi! Welcome to UCLA,” and they’d be like “Oh, whoa there. Hello to you too!” It was different.

Seeing them react like that really brought my self-esteem up, and it flattered me, in a way. It kept me going for the whole shift. Sometimes I would be really tired, but I’d still be like, “Hi! Welcome to UCLA. How may I help you?”

In addition to being personable and having good customer service skills, what other qualities do you recommend to be successful here?

I wouldn’t recommend people to have certain qualities for this job. I want to say that if you’re shy, if you’re not very social—I’ve never been involved in groups or clubs—if you’re lacking something or you need that extra push, Parking [Services] can really help bring that out. It really can. Just being part of Parking and every day interactions will legitimately help you feel better—at least for me.

Why else would you recommend this job?

The hours are very flexible. The supervisors are disciplined in a good way. They make you responsible. They’re literally preparing you for life outside of college, for a real job. I’m not saying this isn’t a real job, but it’s actually useful training for what to expect. You need to take what they teach you and progress with it.

Also, you actually have some downtime where you can get a lot of homework stuff done. I’m not saying laptops and iPads out, but I’m saying you can get a lot of reading done, and at the same time you’re getting paid for it. So who doesn’t like that, honestly?

Another thing is if you work for Parking, you’re guaranteed a parking pass. Not to a specific lot, but you’re always guaranteed a pass, which is also a plus. They help you out, even if you missed the deadline or suddenly, last minute, you need a pass. Last summer I was commuting to work, and I purchased a parking pass.

How do you commute to work now?

I walk. I live on Veteran. It’s a 15-minute walk. The fact that I’m able to walk to campus and walk to work is very efficient for me.

Which do you prefer? Walking or driving?

The drive’s horrible, and I feel bad for other people. I live in the San Fernando Valley. That’s a 15-20 minute drive, without traffic. I mean, it’s beautiful, but then in the mornings it would take me two hours to get here.

I would leave hours before just so I could find parking on Veteran, or park and then sleep in my car and then come to work and class and then leave. The fact that you have to revolve your time, not even around work, but around traffic, is horrible.

UCLA traffic is horrible. I always see minor crashes, parking, dealing with things like that, having to worry that your car is safe, that you’re not going to hit someone—it’s an extra load on you that you don’t have to deal with.

So walking: good. Driving: bad. And working for Parking: absolutely. Does that about sum it up?

Working for Parking can be a really good starting point because you get to meet a lot of new people. You get connections. I’ve seen people help each other with classes or let each other borrow books and then leave them in the office. I feel like the skills I have now as a lead attendant have really helped me. I can put a lot of new skills under my belt, on my resume. Parking really did that for me.

Michelle King contributed to this article.