Summer Jobs

I never did an internship at a Marketing or PR agency, a misstep that has haunted me for my entire career, despite having  years of experience in a variety of jobs in the field. The other day, at a meeting for some potential new work, we got to talking about high school and college jobs, internships, the benefits, the similarities, and the differences.

I, for one, did not know the career path I wanted to take when I traipsed into UMASS as an English major. It took me until a year or so after I graduated to actually start forming a plan. As a result, I didn’t seek out internships in my now-chosen field. Oh yeah, and I needed to make money, so working for free wasn’t really an option.

Factory girl – Up until a few years before he died, my father worked for an aluminum company. He had a nice air-conditioned office and a lunch that he could go home for. This particular company offered summer jobs for the children of its employees. Unfortunately/fortunately, depending on how you look at it, I got one of these jobs for my first two college summers.

Every day from 7 am to 3 pm, I went to the factory and met with my co-workers, two very goofy, annoying boys who made fun of me day in and day out. We painted factory walls, mopped greasy floors, picked up trash in the overgrown parking lot and back of the warehouse, cleaned massive globs of grease off of machinery. It was really glamorous.

And then one day to my great joy (not really, though), someone in the office broke his arm, and he needed help typing and filing. I bid the boys farewell, got to wear clean clothes to work, and sat at a desk for the rest of the summer learning how to do billing and payroll and all sorts of other office tasks.

My second summer there, I was a true factory worker, standing on a line, pulling out damaged product. On my feet for eight hours, sweaty, hot, bored out of my mind. In the entire factory, I was one of three women; the other two were much, much older than me. It was definitely an interesting experience, but  I was pretty happy when the job program got cut the following year and they couldn’t hire me.

Lessons learned: Office skills, the workings of a factory, and how truly difficult lots of people’s jobs are on a daily basis. I’ve always had it lucky.

Camp Counselor – Is there anyone who wasn’t a camp counselor? For the next two summers, I was a counselor to a group of five year old girls at the Jewish Community Center a few towns away. Talk about a change from the factory! While this job taught me that I really don’t like the company of children, it was a pretty great opportunity to get a tan, eat ice cream and watermelon, and dip my feet in the pool while the kids took swimming lessons.

Substitute Teacher – During the school year and in the beginning of my summer vacation from college, I was a substitute teacher in the Amherst area and in New Jersey. I subbed every grade from pre-school to 8th, deciding middle school was not for me when kids threw things at me and I got asked for a hall pass when I was going between rooms. Subbing was the easiest job I have ever had. Usually the kids would be gone for lunch and the “special” that day, gym, art, music, etc. so I had a lot of time to read or do homework. Teachers often left movies for the kids to watch, so that made for more quiet time. Not a bad gig if you can get it!

Lessons learned: Working with kids is not my calling. At all.

What jobs did you have in school/summers? What lessons did you learn?

Did you know what you wanted to be “when you grew up” when you left high school?

  1. Amanda’s avatar

    Great post Meghan! Going in to school I was pre-med (What a joke!), so no, I really had no idea what I wanted to be. Before college I wanted to go into the Peace Corps for a few years but being one of the first to go to college in my family, my parents were afraid I’d never actually enroll. I think if I took a few years before college, it would have made me appreciate school. Summer jobs included lifeguarding, directing the town’s free swim program & substitute teaching.


    1. traveleatlove’s avatar

      I wanted to join the Peace Corps too! I don’t really think I could have roughed it that much, it’s probably better I didn’t!


    2. Michelle’s avatar

      This is a really interesting blog post. I always knew that I wanted to be an attorney so I did a lot of political and law firm internships. However, my first job was working at the town library. Pretty dorky but it paid well, was quiet and had AC!


    3. Elizabeth’s avatar

      Ooooh, this is a fun topic! I think that’s a pretty cool tidbit about you that you worked in an aluminum factory. I definitely was a camp counselor, once at a day camp and once at a sleepaway camp in Maine. The sleepaway camp was amazing. It was a fabulous camp and they gave counselors generous time off and I got to see so much of Maine that summer. I used to want to go into cancer research and so I interned at Beth Israel Cancer Center in high school. And now that I’m going to be back in school, I’ll be interning somewhere yet again next summer :)


    4. Erica @ In and Around Town’s avatar

      I subbed during college and totally learned the same thing, working with kids was not for me!

      Summer jobs are tough though no matter what. I knew what I wanted to be (a patent lawyer) but actually worked in labs in college. Before that I was a food runner – I think everyone should spend time working in a restaurant, you learn so much!


      1. traveleatlove’s avatar

        Restaurant jobs were pretty easy to come by where I lived, but they always terrified me because I am so clumsy!


      2. Daisy’s avatar

        I worked at CVS every summer, mostly in the one hour photo lab, i loved developing film and seeing everyones photos ;)

        such a cool post, i had no idea you worked in a factory.


        1. traveleatlove’s avatar

          I always wondered if the people who worked in the photo lab looked through them!


        2. Megan’s avatar

          This made me smile: “While this job taught me that I really don’t like the company of children”

          Let’s see… I had a newspaper route when I was 8 until I was 13. Then I spent my summers working at a grocery store, in retail, waitressing, tutoring, and one summer as a park aide at the San Diego Wild Animal Park. I did have an unpaid internship at one point, but I still waitressed and tutored so I was able to make money too.


        3. Lindsey @ BeantownEats’s avatar

          I smiled at the same line Megan did! ha

          My first ever job was baby-sitting, and I think I learned the same thing about myself and kids. My first “real” job was at Olympia Sports (to this day I still hate back-to-school season). Then in restaurants the rest of high school and summers during college. Worst job I ever had was in the cafeteria at college, dumping everyone’s trays of uneaten food into the “trough”, which always left an odor on your work clothes no matter how many times you washed them!
          I had no idea what I wanted to do until senior year of college when I stumbled upon medical physics. My dream job in high was to be a college basketball coach :)


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