Erica Osborne often tells a funny story about the first time she, as a student, got summer job advice from Dr. Sutton. The words of wisdom she received freshman year (always lived by and never forgotten) are these: “Get a job where you have to wear pants.”
This piece of advice loosely translates into the concept that students should give up those high-school life-guarding gigs and other jobs that are pretty irrelevant to their future careers; however, nowadays it’s a bit harder for college students to find summer jobs that are even distantly related to their courses of study. (I am told that, because of the economy, the market is flooded with people taking these jobs who are older and more experienced than they are.)
OK, so let’s say your college student is a biology major who’s still waiting tables during the summer, and complains to you that the only relationship between biology and working in a restaurant may be in the exploration of the frightening organism manifesting itself in the kitchen’s walk-in cooler. Does that mean that your student is out of resources when it comes to using the summer productively? Heck no.
(Side note here: During spring semester, I speak to a lot of students about what they’re doing over the summer, and many of them explain that they have to come home and work [as opposed to taking that summer class they need or exploring a part-time internship] because mom and dad need them at home to bring home that income. Now, I can understand how this might seem like the thing to do, but quite frankly it’s a bit short-sighted. Your student has the opportunity to enrich his/her educational experience, an experience upon which s/he will build his/her entire life, or go home and nanny for the neighbors. Trust me on this one parents, if your student comes up with a better opportunity and you can make it happen, you should do it.)
OK, so, your student is stuck with an icky summer job. What can s/he do to continue making the summer valuable (without sucking away too much fun in the sun)?
1) Shadow someone in your chosen career. Many local professionals are more than willing to have college students follow them around for an afternoon or a day, and it gives students a much clearer idea of how they see themselves fitting into this profession.
2) Volunteer. When I suggest this, students always say, “I can’t. I have to work all summer.” “HA!” I say, “You can spare one day, one afternoon, maybe a couple hours every Friday morning.” They often are forced to admit that I am right. Even if they only do one day in something related to their field (and let’s face it, money-wise and time-wise, one day off work is not going to make an appreciable difference), they can learn a lot about how things work and the type of people they might work with. Also, few people realize that volunteering often leads to more regular paid work in many fields and can do the same for many students.
3) Work on your resume. Within the next year, students should be looking for good internships, and these placements will depend a great deal on their resume (not to mention the experiences listed on it!) so they should get to work now. There’s no reason for them not to. They can meet with Ann Zeman in Career Development in the fall and get some good advice.
4) Plan activities/goals/involvement for next year. Ok, so maybe they had a rough year this year, or they work a lot, or they just needed some time to get adjusted. All those things are totally normal. But now students should be planning the clubs, organizations, and activities they want to try this year that they couldn’t do last year. Sophomores and other upperclassmen find it easier to get leadership positions in clubs and interact with profs and other students. These items, too, will be important on their resumes.
Within the next couple of weeks, rising sophomores will be getting a personal letter from your friendly local ARC staff about some of these issues. Encourage them to peruse it thoroughly and contact us if they need to.
Class of 2005
Director of Writing and Parent Communications