Experience better than paycheck

Ally Kebba
Contributing Writer

By the time Spring Break rolls around, students all over campus are buzzing over how they will spend their summer break. He with the fancy law firm internship and she with the prestigious research opportunity lined up will likely be the most audible. But for those of you who spend your summers working for a paycheck instead of an impressive line on your resume, fear not! A summer of hard work as a waiter or camp counselor can be just as, if not more, formative and useful as one spent as an intern with a big name company. It’s all what you glean from the experience, how you can apply what you learn to your overall goals and how you can spin it to future employers. At even the most basic, mind-numbingly tedious jobs there is more than minimum wage to be gained.

Of course, an impressive internship has its perks. Besides bragging rights, a summer intern can gain career-specific experience and knowledge. Depending on the internship, a student could have the opportunity for hands-on work and skill improvement or observation of a successful company or organization at work.  At the end of what is likely to be a very productive summer, said intern comes away with a freshly added, notable line on his or her resume, as well as a handful of contacts that are sure to be useful when seeking out future employment or advice.

Personally, I have experienced many different kinds of summers.  I entered the working world as a preteen camp counselor and had my first real taste of the-world-doesn’t-revolve-around-you. My personal comfort came second to my campers’, and I was paid to satisfy both their needs and the needs of their parents. I learned to be responsible for people other than myself. A few summers later I worked at a popular but frenzied and disorganized retail store. Never before had my patience been so regularly tested. Not only were customers rude and demanding, but the managers were tired, overworked, confused and angry. I saw firsthand how an organization is made or broken by its leaders and how those leaders treat their employees. I learned more about the importance of good management than I ever could have from a textbook.

Will my summers as a camp counselor and salesperson alone land me my dream job when I leave campus? No. But without these experiences I doubt I would have been equipped to handle an internship maturely and contribute as an employee. By the time I finally had my first internship, I was prepared for the work environment. I was not disillusioned if I needed to pick up a coffee for my boss, and I was prepared and motivated when offered an important task. Others may be more immediately prepared to work, or may simply seek more compensation for their time and effort than a line on a resume. Regardless, there is something to be gained from every experience. I know that were I to spend another summer as a salesperson, my communication and interpersonal skills would only improve. Should I go back to my last internship, I could advance a more specific skillset related to my career goals. Either way, I grow and develop, and I become a more attractive candidate in the job market.

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