Career and Money: Lessons from Summer Jobs Thumbnail

With the summer coming up, many college and high school students are looking for summer jobs to earn some income. For many, it’s just a job or just a paycheck. I’m hoping to encourage others to look for just more than the money. I thought it would be fun to reminisce about some of my first summer jobs and money lessons I learned from the job and what I learn from the job.

Office Assistant (Real Estate Appraisal)

A friend of the family asked if I would be interested in helping out that summer with paperwork. I was 14 and I could finally officially work and I was eager to earn some money besides my babysitting and odd jobs. The pay was great for me ($15/hour) and once he explained the job, it seemed I could handle the work.

It was an incredible job and I was so sad when the work was over. The boss was a teacher in the sense that he laid out clear objectives of what he expected and helped me to become familiar with the tools and software. The job was great as it was a confidence and resume booster.

Work That’s Fun and With Good Pay? Possible

I’m grateful that my first job was a great experience. It really helped me to see that you can work somewhere, enjoy what you do, and get paid for the work that you put in. While it was only a temporary summer job, it was enough for me understand that you don’t have to suffer through a job you hate. Thanks to this job, I’ve made decision to quit jobs when they started being unreasonable or crossed a line. At first it hurt my budget, but I learned with time to do a better job at the interview and ask employers more questions about what they expect.

Be Open to New Opportunities

I could’ve said no- it involved learning new software and I had no idea how real estate appraisal worked. Some of my friends thought the job sounded boring and thought I should pass. I’d have to dress up and go to an office, cutting into my summer plans (I worked during the day). I decided to go ahead and try it out and I’m so glad I did.

Many other opportunities that have improved my finances came from taking a chance and learning a new skill. I was able to use that ability to pick up software rather quickly as a selling point in my other job interviews.

Food Crew (Fast Food Chain)

So I basically went from the best summer job to a horrible one the next year. I thought it would be great to work with a national company and the store location was less than 10 minutes from the beach. I figured I would get off of work and head down to the oceanfront to hang with my friends. I’d have plenty of money to spend and save (ha!).

I quickly learned that I was just employee meant to do a very specific job (unless of course I had to cover for someone). Simply a cog in the machines, I was bored out of my mind half of the time. I still worked hard and gave my best when I was clocked in.

Pay Doesn’t Always Match Work

Compared to my other job, I was doing much more physical labor for a fraction of the pay.

Rushing the Job Hurts Everyone

I had a lot of incompetent coworkers. Half of them would show up late or had to have their work redone. They rushed the job just to get it done, but it was sloppy.  Another problem was the small space that we were cramped in while working together. That lead to a lot of close calls with one another. One occassion really scared me.

We were having a busy night with the drive-thrus and we were packed around each other. Someone ordered a banana split and my coworker was supposed to handle it. She literally turned with the knife out and nicked my eye. As you can imagine, I panicked and ran to check on my eye. Grateful that I didn’t lose my sight, I requested that I go home with pay. My scared manager agreed and I had a night off. I quit shortly thereafter.

Food Crew (Family Owned Business)

Ironically it was the same as job that I had with the national chain, but this time it was a family owned franchise. A mother and daughter ran the small Italian Icee shop and there was a small crew of about 10 people. There were 2 shift supervisors that had worked a few seasons with them and were in charge. The store was a well oiled machone and while the pay wasn’t great, the atmosphere was fantastic.

If we completed our work we could read if it was a slow days. We weren’t given busy work just have work. We were treated as adults and as along as the customers were happy and the back end work was completed by the end of our shift our bosses were fine with it. Freedom to find what worked for us made the job fun and challenging.

Investing and Saving Early Can Have a Big Impact

My shift supervisor was an interesting character. He was in college and tried to pass his bit of wisdom to the est of us. I remember on slow days he’d talk to us about finances.  He reminded us to save a portion of our paychecks no matter what. He pointed out that he was able to avoid having credit card debt and car payments because he had a routine of saving before making big purchases. It didn’t really hit me until years later, but I realize how valuable that piece of advice is.

Investing is More than Retirement

I also learned another thing from my shift supervisor that I hadn’t heard from anyone I personally knew. I always associated investing with saving for retirement. I heard about 401(k)s, but I didn’t know you could save for other things. He was investing for future goals like a house down payment. His family prepared him by setting the accounts up, but once he started working he was expected to contribute to the accounts.

I also respected how his parents expected him to play a part in his own financial future. Part of becoming independent is having to do things on your own. With our daughter we hope to do the same as she grows up. We’ll start her off and show her what we know, but at some point she’ll have to take responsibility for her money.

Thoughts on First Jobs and Lessons Learned

I thought I would have financial lesson or two to share, but reviewing the jobs in my mind helped me realize how much I picked up from the work, the people, and myself. I’d love to get your perspective. What were some of your first jobs? Which ones were your favorites? Which did you hate? What lessons did you learn on the job and from the job?