Summer is more than halfway over (in fact it’s 71.5% over as of today) and I’ve gotten pretty comfortable in my ‘new’ job and my daily routine. Maybe too comfortable as I am starting to itch for the new school year to start. That being said, I am very grateful for my summer job and have become pretty reflective of it recently. Here are four lessons I learned from my first “real” summer job.
To clarify/add context: I have had 2 jobs in the past, a paper route as a child (barely counts) and being a part time cashier at a hardware store in high school. Now I am working as a summer student in an office with the Ontario government. I work 9-5 Monday to Friday and do a lot of email sending, data entry, phone calls, and file cleanup.
Lesson One: Working 9-5 Monday to Friday is a great thing
Having a set schedule and knowing I work from 9:00am-5:00pm every weekday is a wonderful thing. In university, classes and other commitments are all over the place and it can be hard to make plans (especially if you also have a part time job), but with my summer job I know I have evenings and weekends off and that’s a great feeling. Speaking of weekends, I forgot what a weekend really is until this summer. In high school I had a part time job that meant working Friday night and either Saturday or Sunday (or both!) every week. In university there were always assignments to work on, textbooks to read, and tests to study for, meaning a weekend is never really a break. But this summer, I have be able to fully appreciate those two beautiful days of having no work or homework, and being able to do whatever I want. I can go on overnight trips, volunteer, hang out with friends or even do nothing all day. Being home has also made weekends better because I have access to a car and my hometown always has fun events going on. Added bonus: its summer so weather = usually wonderful.
Lesson Two: It’s okay to ask questions
The first couple of weeks were overwhelming. There are about ten ‘processes’ (with 4-10 steps each) that I was learning how to do and at first I had a lot of questions that I thought were ‘dumb’. For example: “What do you put in the subject of the email when you send out an approval?” or “What size font do you use on the labels?” While these questions may seem small and insignificant, by asking them I showed that I pay attention to detail and really want to do a good job. My supervisor was very nice about these questions and it turns out there were correct ways to name an email and create a label, they were just second nature to her so she didn’t explain them right away. By making sure I have the little details down, my work is better overall and I am being consistent with the usual process.
Lesson Three: It’s all about making connections…
One day while I was eating lunch at my desk the director of the branch that’s located next to mine (imagine I’m in the admin department and he’s the director of marketing: higher up and in a different section) walked by and suddenly stopped. He looked at me and pointed to something on my desk: my lunch bag which was just a reusable bag from Brescia. He smiled and said “Did you go to Brescia? My daughter went there”. I told him I had just finished my first year and we talked about Brescia and Western, the leadership and business profs that his daughter and I had both had (she graduated the year before I started) and I mentioned that I wanted to study business at Ivey. This was in May and now it’s almost August and he still says hello to me when he walks past my cubicle, meaning I am on his radar. If I choose to apply for a summer student position here next year, specifically in his branch, I know to put Brescia on my resume and talk about it in my interview. Even though Brescia is so small and I hadn’t heard of it before I actually looked into applying to Western, its alumni network is bigger than one might think, and I actually know multiple people that either went to Brescia or know someone who did. This is just one of many connections I made this summer, some on purpose and some by accident, and it’s these connections that will help me in the future.
Lesson Four: …but it is possible to find a summer job without a connection
When I tell people that I am working at the government of Ontario this summer their first question is usually “Who did you know that got you a job?” to which my response is “No one, I just applied for it!”. These days it can seem impossible to find a job without connections (a parent, a prof, a your cousin’s friend’s barber’s mailman’s sister who sends in your resume), but while knowing someone can be extremely helpful for getting your foot in the door, it’s not necessary. I applied for my job through a government database that filtered the jobs to my hometown. I applied for multiple and heard back from one. I did an interview that went pretty well and here I am: employed. So don’t fret if you don’t have any ‘connections’ that can lead to a job, they are not always necessary!
That’s what I learned this summer, how about you?