Sunday, July 31, 2011

Summer Jobs

Inspired by Inc. Magazine's article on summer jobs, I will join the conversation. The magazine shared a little informational tidbit that only 48.9% of 16 to 24 year-olds had a summer job in 2010. That is the lowest recording since the Bureau of Labor began tracking that statistic in 1948.

Granted, the economy is still making a comeback, and there are many jobs that are currently being filled by over-qualified adults who have been out of work, but I have to say that after working with youth from this age bracket in both church and school settings for over 10 years now, I am always surprised at how few young people get jobs either in the summer or once they turn 16.

I think family work ethic has a lot to do with it. It doesn't seem to matter whether these young people come from wealthy or not-so-wealthy families, the attitude of work comes from Mom and Dad. (I have counseled so many young people that they could have so much more freedom by being a little more financially independent!)

I remember with excruciating clarity how desperately bored I was the summer I was 14: too old to want to babysit (and lack of good opportunity living in New Jersey) and too young to get a real job. By the time I was 16, I was done with baby sitting, having been a regular sitter since I was 10 (gasp! I cannot imagine a 10 year-old watching a baby, but I did!). It was Mo who, tired of me hanging around the house, finally took the local paper in her own hands and circled some jobs for me in the Medfield Press. Thus began my career as a working stiff. Here is an account of my summer jobs:

General Office Assistant: Fred Davis Corp. (Medfield, Ma 1992-1993)

I was an office assistant at an energy efficient lighting company. I knew NOTHING about lighting let alone the energy efficient variety. I worked for Fred and Lucinda Davis who were really nice, post-hippies staring a company with a product they believed in. My main responsibilities were cold-calling lighting companies to ask for their addresses so I could send them a packet of information. This job taught me two things: 1) I hated using the telephone, and still do and 2) I had a talent for organization and efficiency. I revamped the assembly line of information packet building, and was trusted with shipping and receiving. I quit this job because I got a lead in the school musical my senior year. I remember Lucinda saying "Do you feel good about the fact that you would quit a job over a part in a play?" I remember saying, "Yeah." And I have never regretted it (it was my Senior year!).

Sales Associate, Intimate Apparel: Filene's Department Stores (Natick Mall 1993)

This was an awesome job. I worked in the lingerie department of a big department store the summer before I left for college. This was my first job where I had to dress like an adult (wear pantyhose). My co-workers were all moms in their late 40's - 60's who had held this part-time job for years. They knew everything about ladies underthings and fit and make, and they treated me like one of their own children, clucking and fussing over my college plans and lack of a boyfriend. My sense of organization came in handy, but the main thing I learned from this job was how powerful product information can be. I really loved the training and the detailed info about the different brands and models of everything from bras to thongs. I became really good at helping people find what they needed, and that was really satisfying. Besides, what teen-aged girl does not love having a 25% discount on loads of cute bras and underwear?

Lifeguard: Toucan Pool Company (Houston, TX 1994)

I went from being completely incapacitated, on my back, from mono for 34 days to a lifeguard training/audition. Luckily, I am a strong swimmer and was very determined not to embarrass myself by drowning in front of 20 other lifeguards-in-training. It was the perfect job to recover from a long illness. I worked at a newly-built neighborhood pool that no one ever came to. I was also the only lifeguard. I would get there in the morning and empty the filter baskets, check the chemicals, and get up on my stand with my giant water cooler and... sweat. I would sweat from about 11am to 9pm. Occasionally, there would be another lifeguard to cover part of the shift, but for most of the summer it was just me. There were three families that would actually come to the pool, but they came between 6 pm and 9 pm. I knew their names and they knew mine. It was like a little family. All I had to do was sit there and let my body recover and think my thoughts and drink my water and sweat. I think I lost 10 pounds, and I got very, very tan.

Lunch Counter Cook: Provo Pharmacy Lunch Counter (1995)
Waitress: La Dolce Vita Restaurant (1995)
Private Family Cook: Rich People (1995)

I had all three of these jobs simultaneously. I would get up in the morning and go to the lunch counter and make awesome breakfasts and coffee for construction worker regulars then spend my evenings waitressing at a local Italian restaurant. On my time off, I would grocery shop and cook for a rich family of 8. I got my first credit card, bought my first bike, and wrote a check for it that day (I knew how to build up good credit.) I was busy and I loved it. I liked making daily lunch specials like meatloaf and spaghetti and I loved serving customers and I loved cooking. It was a good summer.

Cook/Waitress: Brick Oven Pizza (1997 - 1999)

After my mission, I got a job as a cook in a local college pizza joint. I was the only girl in the kitchen (besides Emily who shared this summer job with me for a while). I made and cut pizzas and eventually worked my way up to the grill work. I loved being in the kitchen and still love eating there, but I got tired of smelling like food after work, so I moved over to serving and happily worked there through most of college.

Sales: Extended Pantry (1999)
House Painter: Student Painters (1999)

I am not a good sales person. I worked door-to-door sales for a company I really liked and believed in. It was such a great idea! But apparently I really stank because I did not make a DIME in 3 months of hard work (it was all commission). Because I had no income, I went into debt ($300 or so, maybe more, not the good kind of credit) and had to find other employment. My cousin, Jared, generously offered a spot on one of his painting crews and I painted houses for the rest of the summer in Provo. I really liked this job. Manual labor can be so satisfying. You feel tired and hot, but at the end of the day you feel GOOD. I can still drive by those houses we painted and feel good about my work; I even had my wedding reception in one of those houses!

And that was pretty much the end of my summer jobs. Every job I have had since then has been just my job. I like working, although I have discovered that I am not good with regular 9 to 5 type jobs. I need a little creativity, I need a little flexibility, I need a little less routine to be happy.

I currently work as part-time faculty at LDS Business College teaching a couple of design courses and I LOVE it. I have found my true calling as a teacher and I look forward to pursuing it.

Please, if you feel so inclined, share some of your better summer job experiences.