I am the queen of summer jobs and internships.
I have done everything from chase kids around in nurseries to waitressing to getting covered in dirt in a greenhouse to working in a tiny cubicle in a Manhattan talent office to running errands for a crazy agent to making pizza for one day.
Looking back, there are so many things I wish I could have told my little 19 year old self during her first foray into living alone and interning in New York City. One of those things would be to never eat the coleslaw in any restaurant (they totally reuse that shit), but I would also tell her how to deal with completely psychotic bosses and why it’s okay to lie to certain part time employers.
Since I don’t have access to a time machine (discounting the cardboard box my brother and I made when we were five. It never worked right), I can’t tell my younger self any of the things I know now. But I can tell you. That’s why I’ve decided to do a series entitled “Do’s and Don’ts of the Summer”.
Our first Do’s and Don’ts list?
• Do give your resume out to every possible employer. Everyone has their first choice for a summer job, but the market is tricky and quick to dissipate (everyone gets out of school at the same time), so being choosy initially is only going to hurt you in the long run.
• Do tell many employers that you’re interested—at the same time. Until one of them offers you a job, you’re allowed to juggle as many possibilities as you want. Let them all assume you’re really excited to work for them, and only them, and don’t count anyone out until a final deal comes up. As long as you do it politely and with tact, you don’t really owe these possible employers anything.
• Don’t just stop talking to the employers you decided to forgo in favor of something else. Politely tell them you found a better offer, and thank them for their time. There’s always next year.
• Do go to any interview dressed nicely. This doesn’t always mean a suit and power pumps, but even outdoorsy jobs are looking for employees that take care of themselves. Once you get hired, you can talk about dress code, but initially, try to look confident, comfortable, and put together.
• Don’t overdress. There’s a line. Know what you’re interviewing for and dress appropriately according to that knowledge.
• Do understand that first impressions mean a lot when it comes to summer jobs. Everyone wants the same position. Make sure you impress.
• Don’t feel bad about lying to an employer about your post-summer availability. Lots of employers don’t just hire for the summer, so if they ask you how long you’ll be available, don’t be completely forthcoming about your school plans. You’ll do good work for three months and then move on. They’ll find someone else. Promise.
• Do take your summer job seriously. Summer is for partying and relaxing, it’s true; but it’s also a time to make cash for next fall. If you make good with your boss, you could potentially work out a deal where you come back and help out whenever you can (Christmas/spring break). And like I said before, there’s always next year.
• Do follow your gut. If the first day makes you miserable, get out and keep looking. The first day is always hard, but if the negative feelings continue, it makes complete sense to leave. Summer jobs aren’t the most serious things in the world. Soon enough you’ll have to rely on employment you don’t enjoy to pay the bills (not always…but sometimes). Don’t rush it. Try to find something that doesn’t suck the life out of you.
• Do try to do something that builds up your resume. The more experience you have in one field, the easier it will be to advance there. Doing a lot of random jobs may be interesting, but could make it harder in the long run to get hired in any specific field.
• Don’t allow an employer to pay you less than minimum wage. No matter what kind of deal they try and sell you on, nobody can survive on less than that. Find out what minimum wage is in your state, and accept nothing less!
• Don’t wait! Come June, those high school kids will be filling the job market. Get out there as soon as possible!