How to Make the Most of Your Summer Job

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Not interning this summer? No problem! Whether you’re working part-time at the local ice cream parlor or babysitting, your summer job can be just as beneficial as an internship for preparing you for the real world. We talked to Mark Presnell, director of the Johns Hopkins University Career Center, for tips on how to make the most of your part-time job this summer.

1. Find transferable skills

No, your future career as a doctor won’t require you to scoop ice cream into customers’ cones. However, Presnell says that at your summer job, you can learn a lot from your co-workers and supervisors about multi-tasking and how to be detail-oriented and efficient—which will definitely translate to a “real world” job!

How to make it work for you: Be conscious of which skills from your part-time job you could bring to the table in your next internship. Your coffee-making barista skills can help you with the precision you’ll need as an engineer or pharmacist, for example. Working as a counselor for a summer camp is great practice if you want to teach or be in a leadership position. Shira, a junior at Franklin & Marshall College, says she learned a lot about organization and prioritization after being a camp counselor during the summer. “I was often in charge of large groups of children who all needed something different at the same time,” she says. “You really learn a lot of skills from being a camp counselor that are transferable to other jobs.” Whether you’re working as a cashier, waitress, or babysitter, you’ll undoubtedly learn something new you can use later down the road.

2. Hone your people skills

In most industries, you’ll be working with people, whether it’s dealing with customers, clients, or coworkers. Many part-time summer jobs require you to deal with people—use this to your advantage! Rachel, a collegiette at Hofstra University, found this out when she worked at a local amusement park one summer. “I learned a lot about communicating with other people, working with a team, and customer service,” she says.

Even negative experiences at your job can still help you learn the fine art of customer service, which Lindsay, an Emerson College collegiette, discovered. “I waitressed at Red Robin, and it was the absolute worst,” she says. “However, I learned a lot about dealing with people (both customers and coworkers), multi-tasking, working in a stressful environment, and, most importantly, how to fake-smile for 12 hours straight.”

How to make it work for you: Developing people skills is invaluable no matter what you end up doing later in life. When you’re working, watch people who have worked there longer than you and see how they deal with customers. Learn from their mistakes or copy them if they’re doing a good job. When in doubt, be patient and willing to help in whatever way you can. “In my job, I keep an open mind and try to do what I can to help out. When dealing with other people, you have to make sure they know you care,” says Vanessa, a junior at Johns Hopkins.

3. Get to know your supervisor

Your supervisor can be a great resource for helping you decide what you want to do later down the road. “If you are a student in a part-time summer job, begin building your network. Reach out [and] ask questions about what they do and why they like it,” Presnell says. “Ask for advice about your particular interests and career.  People love to talk about what they do, and I think that you will find professionals very receptive to a conversation.”

Even if you’re not that interested in working in that field, remember that every connection counts. You never know who your boss knows—and if you’re a great employee, you could even request a reference from her at the end of your summer job! Your job might not be what you’re going to do for the rest of your life, but a reference saying you were a hard, enthusiastic worker can help you no matter who’s hiring.

How to make it work for you: Make sure your supervisor knows you by checking in periodically to see how you can improve at your job and giving her updates about your work as needed. This way, she’ll know you’re dependable, and, most importantly, that you really care about your work.

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About The Author

Katie is a member of Class of 2015 at Johns Hopkins University. She is a Writing Seminars major and is minoring in Psychology and Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies. A Cleveland, Ohio native, Katie has interned for the National Partnership for Women & Families, EMILY's List,  Cleveland Magazine and mental_floss magazine. Besides writing for Her Campus, Katie is a member of the Hopkins Wind Ensemble, Hopkins Feminists, JHU's chapter of Kappa Alpha Theta and A Place to Talk, a peer-counseling service at JHU. She loves cats, Gilmore Girls, J.Crew and wants to become C.J. Cregg when she grows up. 

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