Surviving the Summer Job Dilemma

By Blair Peppe ‘17

During the summer months, textbooks typically collect dust in the corners of rooms as students seek time outside rather than focus on the rules of grammar and algebra. Students take a break from their studies to travel as well as spend time with friends and family. Even summer reading can wait. However, this summer a large number of students decided to do something different. They (myself included) decided to get jobs. Maybe it was the ever-increasing college tuition figures that prompted us, or something else. Either way we ventured out, resumes in hand, and demanded employment. The experience taught us responsibility, and a few other things about teen employment.

I personally started my job search in late May, and I soon realized it would be much more difficult than it seemed. I came to the conclusion that there are three types of jobs the average teenager can have: dining, retail, and child care. Very few retail and dining companies hire teens, which was extremely frustrating to me and a lot of my friends. Why I had to be 18 years old to bus tables at The Cheesecake Factory was beyond me. It’s not like when you turn 18 you magically gain the ability to clear a table.

Eventually, I got a job at the Panera Bread in Beverly Hills, which meant I also had the unpleas

Clara Collins ’17 working retail

ant experience of breaking $100 bills for teenagers my age wearing Prada sunglasses. I learned quickly that when you work at a restaurant, it’s in your job requirements that you be able to think and move fast and that you’re able to do a thousand different things at once. Even though I applied for a position that simply required me to run orders and make beverages, I often was assigned to the back of house (this meant dishwashing) and kitchen (this meant memorizing the names of a thousand different salad dressings). I was always scheduled to work closing shifts, and I developed a deep hatred for anyone who tried to order at 8:50 (ten minutes before closing). I even began to dread the inevitable question — “How did you spend your summer?” — when I returned to school because I knew I would have no other option but to respond, “Taking out garbage.”

I have never worked in retail, but I have friends who do and they spend most of their time folding graphic tees and putting the clothes left in the changing room back on their hangers. It’s similar to dining in that the people you serve can get under your skin and drive you up the wall. Just as there are people who order off the menu at Panera, there are people who go into retail stores asking the employees to check for the hundredth time if the store has a skirt or sweater in their size. However, retail jobs come with employee discounts, which is worth the endless folding depending on how often you find your pockets empty after a shopping spree.

I have volunteered at a summer day camp before. I wasn’t paid, but counselors who were got to have fun with kids all day. I worked at the pool, and, in my opinion, the positives outweighed the negatives. The negatives were sunburns, a permanent swimsuit tan, and

Lucinda Gold ’17 working at Tom Sawyer Camps, assisting the reptile man who comes and teaches the kids.

having to deal with stubborn kids. But the positives were having an overall fun and memorable job looking after children
who look up to you at a time when you may not even look up to yourself. Being responsible for kids who view you as a powerful and fun woman (kids always think you’re much older than you actually are) can boost your confidence. Most often, the employees that work at summer camps are social, and you can form friendships that last a lifetime. You often leave the camp exhausted yet satisfied. For these reasons, I would personally say that working at a summer camp is the best option for a teenager.


Having a job helps build confidence and bulks your wallet. If you decide to seek a summer job next year, make sure it’s in an environment where you do not mind spending time. You may think to yourself, “Who cares if I hate my job? I’m making money.” Although there is some truth to this, the satisfaction is minimal. I thought I wouldn’t mind washing dishes as long as I got my paycheck. I was wrong. Sometimes the shifts felt so tedious that I didn’t remember what my life was like before it began. Chances are your first paying job will involve grunt work that you cannot avoid. Some grunt work is a good thing and important for you to experience. You learn to appreciate the work others put in — and not be that person who shows up to a restaurant ten minutes before closing.

2 comments on “Surviving the Summer Job Dilemma

  1. Lovely article! I’m still waiting to gain magical table clearing skills. Fingers crossed they’ll appear soon.

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