I still remember my first summer job. Actually, it was my first real job, ever. I had spent my sophomore year of high school babysitting for one of my parent’s neighbors, who was a teacher herself, but that was only for a few hours on school nights, and playing video games and running around outside didn’t really feel like work. My first job came that summer, in fact. One of my friends at school, who was two years ahead of me, worked at a local state park and got me an application. “You’d love it,” she enthused, “and wouldn’t it be fun to work together?”
In hindsight, working together would eventually be the end of our friendship, but at the time, it sounded like a good plan. My mom was pressuring me to find a summer job, in any case, constantly regaling me with stories of her own summer jobs, that ranged from picking strawberries to waiting tables at a pizza restaurant. I didn’t really want a job, and so when I wasn’t hired it didn’t seem like that big of a loss. After all, I had only just turned 15, and I wanted another summer of childhood before I committed to what I considered “the real world,” which was a world where I didn’t get to do whatever I wanted all summer long. Unfortunately, or fortunately, halfway through June I got a call from the park offering me a position. One of their other workers had been let go, and there was an opening.
I almost deleted the message before I told my mom about it, because I was so hesitant to get a job. Fortunately, or unfortunately, my friend had also heard the news about my job offer and was already making plans for us to carpool to work. The first day of work I was a nervous wreck. My shift started at 8 am, but my friend was coming to pick me up at 7 so we would have plenty of time to go over opening procedures. The day went by in a total blur. I learned how to open the safe, learned how to answer the phone, learned how to work the computer system, learned how to use the radio, learned how to deal with money, learned how to deal with customers, learned how much campsites cost, learned how to deal with day use tickets…well, I say learned, but few of these things stuck with me for the next day. Mostly, I was a scared teenager who felt as though I had gotten in way over my head.
Of course, things got better. I ended up having that summer job for six summers, and I can safely say that everything that led me to that job was fortunate. While making money was an obvious benefit that allowed me to buy gas for my car and hang out with friends and also start my own savings, there were also many other benefits that were less obvious at the time. When I applied for my work-study position in college, while most of my freshmen peers ended up working in the dining hall washing trays and silverware and dishes, I was placed in the Alumni Relations Department, where I got office experience and a much fancier sounding job title. My customer service experience at the park allowed me to work the Phon-a-thon. Even now, almost eight years after that first summer, I have used my experiences at the park in job interviews when asked about my experiences dealing with diverse people.
While I like to think that eventually I would have been motivated enough to find a summer job myself, in retrospect I appreciate the push I got from my friend and my parents. Encouraging your child to find something to do over the summer isn’t just about gaining money, it’s also about gaining valuable experience.
What was your best (or worst) summer job experience?