Some advice for a better summer job experience

I am aware that it’s still only March, but the recent collection of warm days has me nostalgic for summer, and with thoughts of the warmest time of the year come memories of the hours spent working in a cubicle or in a children’s playground. That’s right. It’s time to start applying for and anticipating summer jobs.

Seasonal positions are a great way to get some fulfilling and educational work-place experience, particularly if you manage to find one in your field of interest. Even if it’s nothing like what you plan on pursuing with your career, every minimum wage position offers some kind of life lesson to take with you in the future.

I’ve had mixed experiences with full-time seasonal positions, ranging from mind-numbingly boring and exhausting to exciting, challenging summer months. Along the way I have picked up a few ways to make the time spent earning the next semester’s spending money more enjoyable – or at least more bearable.

The initial and vital piece of advice I’ll give you if you’re going for your first summer job- and I’m sure anyone else would also tell you- is to STAY HYDRATED. This may seem totally obvious, but when you’re waking up at 6am and racing out the door to avoid being late for your shift, it’s super easy to leave your reusable water bottle behind.

a hand gripping a green reusable water bottle with a tea bag inside of it
protip: put a teabag in your cold water bottle for some flavor!

Something people have been telling me since high school is how much employers want their team to take initiative. However, my anxiety levels had always been too high to even consider stepping out of my comfort zone long enough to do something I wasn’t directly asked to do. What I didn’t realize then and am so glad to know of now is that this doesn’t necessarily mean assuming what your manager wants and then doing it un-asked. Taking initiative can also come in the form of simply approaching your team-leader and telling them about the areas you’re strongest in for their future reference. For example: one year I worked on a team of people who ran a summer camp. I told my supervisor I like to be creative and do art-related things, and she assigned me the task of running art workshops with the kids every week, making my day so much more fun!

Forming friendships, or at least acquaintances of your coworkers is also a good tactic for making life easier during work-hours.  Throughout a period when I was working a job that I did not like at all, having people to talk to intermittently throughout my shift really encouraged me to stay positive.

Remaining optimistic is possibly the most important thing to do-other than drinking water- when you’re spending every day working, whether you’re a fan of your position or not. When you’re spending hours indoors, watching the bright summer sun shine down on everyone who isn’t working that day, it is not difficult at all to slip into a mind frame of bitter longing for leisure. The grass is always greener on the other side, and the thought has often crossed my mind during the summer that I’m wasting all of the beautiful daylight doing nothing productive or fun. What I tell myself in times like that is “I’m not the only one serving customers all day” and that “five days of getting up early and washing dishes for longer than I’d like is really going to make my weekend free feel that much more deserved”.

I’ve come to enjoy the prospect of working 9-5 on weekdays and having weekends free, and the life-experience provided by working those shifts cannot be replaced by spending all my time doing leisure activities.

How do you make your shifts seem shorter? What do you look for in a summer position?

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