My daughter comes home from college on Wednesday. She’s got two internships this summer, but unfortunately only one pays even a small stipend. Usually my husband and I encourage her to take jobs where she can earn enough to cover her personal expenses during the school year. But she’s a film studies major and we agreed that these two summer opportunities in the entertainment industry were too good to pass up. In today’s job market, employers definitely check what kind of career-building internships an applicant has held. We see this summer as investment in her future. If we’re lucky, her stipend will at least cover her summer expenses.
I wish I could say that my summer jobs were career building. Frankly, I usually never gave jobs a thought until I’d been home a week or two from school. At that point, my exasperated parents would slam into my room one morning around eleven and yell something to the effect that (1) money didn’t grow on trees and (2)there was no way in hell I was spending the summer partying at night and sleeping in the day and I’d better haul myself out of bed and find some summer employment or else. Which could explain the boring, dead-end, ‘don’t bother to list them on the resume’ positions I held every summer.
My daughter and her friends started their job searches last Christmas. The competition for good internships is more intense than trying to get into Harvard on a full scholarship. For the unpaid internship she has, there were 1000 applicants, 200 students were interviewed, and 15 were chosen. I guess we’re lucky we didn’t have to pay for the privilege of no pay.
But sometimes dead end jobs teach you as much as these career builders. The summer after I graduated from high school, I got a job in the Baltimore City water department. I don’t want to tell you how old I am, but let’s just say that they were still totaling district water bills with electric adding machines. Summers in Baltimore are charitably described as hot and humid. Sweat, not perspiration, but sweat is a constant companion. Real men, apparently, didn’t need no stinkin’ air conditioning, stinkin’ being the operative word.
Anyway, the work was deathly boring. Whenever you had finally finished a huge mass of water bills, there was always a hundred more piles to do. But what I remember the most about that summer is the old man who’d been in the department for thirty years. He was as thin as a rail and literally bent in half. His body was permanently bowed at the waist, from what I assume was a severe spinal condition. His job was exactly the same as mine: To add up an endless pile of water bills. But while I would be leaving in the fall for college, this was his permanent position. He would be doing it until he retired.
Spending a long, hot, boring summer in the Baltimore City water department taught me more than almost any other job I’ve ever held. While I’d been able to effortlessly tune out all those parental lectures on the importance of an education, the image of the bent man adding up water bills was enough to send me off to school that fall with a new sense of urgency.
How about you? What were your summer jobs?