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It’s finally summer! You’ve waited all year to bask in the sun, feel your toes in the sand, and…get a job? Ok, so I doubt the last one has been super high on your priority list for this glorious time of year, but it should be. Working a summer job can go a long way toward helping you achieve your financial, academic, and professional goals. A part-time job can help you save money for college, preview a future career, build a resume and reference list, provide a competitive edge over your peers, and help you meet new and interesting people.

I started my “pre-professional” life mowing yards and babysitting, which was an excellent way to earn extra cash to buy the designer jeans my parents refused to pay for. When I was finally old enough to be exempt from child labor laws, I advanced to waitressing, cooking, and cleaning gigs. Each experience taught me something about myself and the world around me. Today, I’ll share three summer job experiences that I jokingly, yet affectionately, refer to as the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The good

I was fortunate enough to work at the university I attended as an undergraduate, both during the school year and throughout the summer. Mine was a paid position (not work-study) in the communications office as a writer. My boss was amazing. She is/was incredibly smart and skilled at her job. She took a lot of extra time to get to know me as a person while teaching me so much more than I could have ever learned in the classroom. I was able to get real-world experience while developing a clear understanding of what my future career (communications, marketing, and public relations) would be like day-to-day.

She was also one of the coolest bosses I’ve ever had. She kept her office stocked with candy and would give me the keys to her red sports car and some cash to get us sodas from the local gas station to ‘keep up our energy!’ To this day, 20+ years later, I consider her a mentor and friend. I attribute much of my success to her.

The bad

So, not every job is a dream come true. Sometimes the work is physically exhausting. Sometimes the manager is a tyrant. And sometimes, the pay seriously stinks. In some cases, it’s the trifecta. If you haven’t had to experience any of these yet, consider yourself lucky. If you end up in a job like this, embrace the experience because you will learn valuable lessons.

My first real ‘bad’ job was at a clothing store. It paid minimum wage, required me to wear skirts/dresses and dress shoes (even during eight-hour shifts), and the manager was a bit of a bully. While the job was tough to get through at the time, I’m grateful for the experience, as it kept me focused on finishing my education. I always wanted to have an option to walk away from any toxic environment I might encounter in the future, which meant finishing my degree. Please know that the job did have some bright spots. I got a killer discount on clothes, always knew when the best sales would happen, and I met some lovely co-workers. The job taught me one lasting, valuable lesson: I’m not cut out for a job that requires me to be on my feet all day! It also helped me shape myself as a manager. I swore that one day I would be the type of boss people wanted to work for; someone who is fair, kind, compassionate, and supportive.

The ugly

Ok, I’m being facetious here. The job I’m going to tell you about wasn’t really ‘ugly’ at all, per se, but it certainly wasn’t glamorous. Some jobs aren’t. I cleaned toilets and scrubbed floors at a fertilizer plant’s office. Oddly enough, I look back more fondly on this job than the bad one. It was satisfying to transform the office each week into a clean, good-smelling space. I could work at my own pace and, best of all, wear comfortable shoes! Plus, that job paid better than the other two I previously described. It taught me humility and to appreciate those who work behind the scenes to ensure we have clean, healthy environments in which to work. Everyone should be so fortunate.

The moral of the stories

Get out there and find your perfect summer job! There are a LOT of open positions right now, and there’s never been a better time to find something that pays well that you can enjoy. Think about your interests and go from there.

By Regan Anson