Summer jobs offer new opportunities


Riley Jones

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he final bell rings at 4:05 p.m. on a hot day in late spring. Students rush to buses, cars and bikes. It’s the last day of school, and it means different things for everyone.
For some, May means the start of summer vacation. But for many high-schoolers, the last day of school is just the transition from schoolwork to a different kind of work: a summer job.
Junior Nicole Williams worked at Little Mates’ Cove as a lifeguard last summer and plans to return to the pool as a manager or a lifeguard because of all the memories she made there.
“When I got a summer job, the main thing that was important to me was that I would be outside,” Williams said. “Summer is my favorite season, and I absolutely love being out in the sun. I knew I would hate working somewhere like a restaurant because I wouldn’t be able to get tan or just enjoy the heat. It also worked out that I enjoy being in and around water, so lifeguarding was a perfect fit for me.”
Whether they are out of gas money or just want to build a résumé, high school is usually the first opportunity students have to get a job. Beyond the benefit of money, a summer job can improve students’ performance in the classroom. A study performed by Stanford’s Jacob Leos-Urbel reported that summer employment had a positive effect on young people taking standardized tests in New York.
Employers such as Lisa Tye, Chief Financial Officer at the Country Club of Missouri, think summer employment is important for high schoolers to learn necessary skills for future jobs.
[quote]“The ability to look people in the eye, speak with a smile and have a conversation are often skills that we have to train our younger staff,” Tye said. “A summer job teaches employees life skills such as how important it is to, one, show up to work when scheduled; two, learn how to take constructive criticism and grow from it and, three, learn how to take direction.”[/quote] Life skills that students learn from summer jobs translate well to responsibilities that come after school lets out, whether those responsibilities be filling out college applications or behaving professionally during interviews.
Williams says she had already learned a lot of these skills, the responsibility of lifeguarding made her more confident in her ability to stay calm and her ability to actually save a life.
“I already knew how to be a good employee, being on time, doing what you’re told,” Williams said, “but when you’re a lifeguard, you are expected to know how to save lives. They obviously taught us how to do this, but it took a lot of practice to really be confident in your ability if there was ever an emergency situation.”
Especially in lifeguarding, it’s important to make practicing count just as much as the real thing. Tye says that inexperience in a work environment can even be a benefit.
“Our managers get a chance to train the staff as we would like them to work, [with] fewer bad habits from past experiences,” Tye said. “We love the energy of the high schoolers starting to find their career paths. They have flexible schedules as they live in Columbia, unlike college students who tend to leave for the summer.”
In addition to the kids that work over the summer, there are those that don’t. For those that don’t work, there are still opportunities to enrich the summer experience and look attractive to future colleges and employers. Sophomore Abby Still worked as a lifeguard last summer, but decided not to get a job this summer.
“There are a lot of quality life experiences and relationships you can build outside of a work environment,” Still said. “I plan on doing some college visits with my family, as well as possibly going to Switzerland.”
In addition to wanting a break, academic and social obligations that fill up students’ summer schedules can make it hard to commit to assigned schedules.
“I’m looking forward to having some leisure time,” Still said. “I am taking personal finance this summer, so it would be harder for me to fit a job into my schedule [this year]. I think it’s important as a young person to take advantage of the time you have off because your life will only get busier.”
Unlike in school, age matters less when determining which coworkers work together, and, because of the random assortment of people on shifts, it’s hard to always stay with the same group of friends.
“Last year when I worked, I really enjoyed the social aspect of it,” Still said. “You’re all from different aspects of life, but are forced to connect because you’re going through the same thing. I made some lifelong friends because of the work environment, so I’ll certainly miss that.”
Socially, working over the summer can be a great way for students to make friends with people that they wouldn’t have before.
“Everyone I worked with was so mature that you couldn’t even tell there was really an age gap,” Williams said. “There was a time when our manager had a Mizzou Rec League sand volleyball game ten minutes after the pool closed, and the people I was working with that day went to watch his ‘championship’.”
Getting a job can make the summer more engaging for students and be a way to meet new people and gain valuable experience for college and careers in the future.
Although it is technically work, nothing says working over the summer can’t be fun. When submitting an application or going in for an interview, employers like to know that the person they’re hiring is actually going to gain something from the experience.
“When you apply, apply in person, dress nicely, introduce yourself to the staff person taking your application, and be polite,” Tye said. “It goes a long way to interact professionally in a way that shows that you really want to work here… Any employee who is willing to work hard and can take on any task will be successful.”
Are you working in the summer? Let us know in the comments below.