Ah, summertime. In Canada, we get through long, cold, dreary fall and winter months on a wish and a promise that summer will come. Eventually. Long, warm, sunny days, evenings on the patio, leisure and vacation – we jam it all into two, maybe three months, if the weather gods are in our favour. When I was a kid, summer vacation went on forever. Now, as an adult, I’m constantly astonished by how quickly we go from winter to summer and back to winter, seemingly in the blink of an eye. And the older I get, the faster it goes.
What does summer mean to working people, besides filling in for vacationing co-workers? In many businesses, the work flow eases during summer months. Factories and manufacturing plants often shut down and their employees enjoy time off. For people already employed, summer is a great time to take evening courses to add to their educational credentials, learn new skills or bring existing ones up to date. Days are long, travel isn’t impeded by winter weather and educational institutions open their doors to programs they wouldn’t have room for during the school year.
For students and new graduates, summer is the time to look for work to supplement their income, in many cases, pay for (or off) their education, and gain valuable work experience, even if flipping burgers isn’t part of their career plan. Many students count on their summer earnings to carry them through the school year with careful money management and the occasional parental handout.
Summer seasonal employment provides a number of benefits for those already employed and those looking for employment. For some, it’s a way of keeping yourself in the game when you can’t find work in your chosen field. For others, it’s a way of earning a much-needed income while you build a professional network, find a mentor and build a peer support group.
1. the value of income
For many, a summer job is their first opportunity to learn important life skills around earning money and budgeting. Not only do they learn to handle finances, they also learn the responsibility that comes with having an income.
2. transferable skills
It may be hard to see the connection between being a camp counselor or waitressing and your dream job, but many of the skills and knowledge you gain through summer employment are applicable to most work environments, like responsibility, leadership, problem-solving, communication skills, focus, creativity and flexibility, people skills, patience, programming, organizational and time management skills – it’s a long list.
Summer work experience helps fill out a new resume. In time, that employment will be replaced by permanent or other part-time work, but don’t underestimate the power of that experience and its impact on potential employers, especially if it’s worded effectively on your resume. It can also fill gaps in your resume, showing an employer there’s no dust on you. A summer job is also an opportunity to find out where your talents lie, what you want to do, and – equally important – what you don’t want to do.
4. work ethic
For many young people, summer employment is where they identify and build a work ethic. That’s something that stays with you for life. Its impact can’t be overemphasized.
A summer job may be the first time you meet and interact with people you don’t go to school with. That makes it a great opportunity to start building a network of co-workers, managers and employers, especially if you impress them with your work ethic and willingness to learn and grow. Networking is the most effective way to find future employment, especially in your field. Many employers hire their summer students and interns permanently if they’re suitably impressed. It’s a potential leg up in an organization you’d like to work for.
6. communication skills
The summer workplace is a great environment for developing and polishing your communications skills, both written (do they still do that?), electronic and in person. It’s also a great place to learn how to work well with others.
7. customer service
Depending on where you work and what role you perform, odds are you’ll be dealing with people. You’ll have to get along with co-workers at all levels, and you may deal with vendors, suppliers, customers and the public.
Seasonal employment keeps you moving forward, even if you feel like your career has stalled or you can’t get it started. It brings you in contact with people and opportunities you wouldn’t have otherwise. It’s the time of year when ‘the livin’ is easy’, which makes taking online and library courses, and skills enhancement and general interest courses far less onerous and overwhelming. Offer to fill in and pick up the slack of vacationing employees. Get out there and try something new, learn something new. Just remember to wear sunscreen.