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?