Summer Jobs

Students should plan, so they never waste a summer 0

Joel Quass worked for VIMS on the Chesapeake BaySchool can be a stressful. Even the most motivated and inspired students face academic deadlines, family commitments, roommate distractions,  and other stressors. The thought of spending even part of the summer working just adds  additional pressure. Students view summer as spring break on steroids.

For me, summers were all about making money to pay for school. That was my plan. Summers involved long hours doing construction, pumping gas and being the Assistant Manager of a movie theatre.

But what if, with a plan,  you could use that time to forge a relationship with a multi-national corporation? Or work with marine biologists planting sea grass on sand dunes? Summer jobs in your field of interest stand out on a résumé and develop valuable contacts for future positions.

My best summer during college involved 18′ Thunderbird motor boats with giant Mercury outboard engines. My job was to chase the incoming tides up rivers that fed the Chesapeake Bay. Starting at the mouth of  the river at slack water, I would take a water sample. After logging the time and temperature, I would race upriver a specific time and collect another sample. All summer long I said to myself, “I can’t believe they are paying me to do this.”

As a  Political Science major, I never thought about leveraging that summer job into a career. That wasn’t my plan. Yet it happened in spite of myself.

I made some strong contacts at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science and more importantly, at the marina where we fueled the boats. One of the Senior VP’s of the retail chain Best Products kept his boat there, and we had many of the same interests. Networking with Mr. Riley landed me an interview and a management position with Best Products after graduation.

My summer job helped me land a full-time management position after graduation by sheer luck. Imagine what a student could do during the summer if they had a plan.

Students – What You Get From A Summer Job That You Can’t Get In The Classroom 4

You may get more than a paycheck from your summer job

In high school, I had after school jobs doing landscaping and I pumped gas. Each summer when school was out I would work the grave yard shift at a gas station. I’d go in at 11PM at night and get off at 7AM the next morning. I thought it was great because then I could spend the day with my friends in a boat on the water. I’d sleep a little bit in the evening, sometimes a very little bit,  and then go back to work.

To get through college, I drove a school bus and I was the Assistant Manager and Projectionist at Cinema City Theaters in Tabb, Virginia. Later I had jobs on campus in Student Government and even taught sailing for the college as an adjunct professor to earn some extra money. I made it through high school and college with all of those part and full-time jobs. At the time all I thought I was getting from them was a paycheck. But as I look back at them know, I know got a lot more.

I learned about alarm clocks and how to get places on time. I learned that employers expect you to show up at 11AM if they put you on the schedule for 11AM. I learned they don’t mean show up somewhere around 11AM ’cause we know you were out late and you may need a little extra time to get going today.

I learned about raises by watching what happened to those who had been at jobs longer than I had. I saw that those who were rewarded were usually the ones who were solving problems for the boss, taking on extra responsibilities and making the day go smoother. I saw that the employees who always had a problem with something were not well liked and in time were no longer employees.  I also saw that the Boss’s son seemed to get away with things that no one else could (and never got fired).

I learned how to deal with supervisors and managers and owners of the small businesses I worked for. I found that the relationships I developed with them were far different from the ones I had with my teachers in the classroom. Each workplace had its own structure, its own set of rules. Some places I worked were very strict.

I spent three weeks and three days as a fry cook for a new fast food restaurant that opened near the college. Very strict, very high expectations and very greasy. At the movie theater, my boss was just the opposite. She was much more laid back and as long as things got done when they needed to be done, life was ok. She even let me borrow the company van so I could take five friends with me to the Hampton Roads Coliseum to see Jethro Tull in concert.  Pretty wild.

Some of my friends actually thought about the types of summer jobs they took and found internships and jobs in the field they wanted to pursue. At the time it just seemed kind of cool, but now I see how helpful that was to their ultimate career choices. You might want to give some thought to the types of jobs you seek out in high school and beyond. They really can be the groundwork for rewarding jobs after school.

It’s not too late to find a summer job. And if you already have one, congratulations! Enjoy your summer away from the classroom, but as you work and earn a paycheck, don’t be surprised if you actually learn something.