As published in the Las Cruces Bulletin, May 21, 2021
Students who are looking for summer jobs this year may be able to find amazing jobs they would have never been able to find before, thanks to the strange dynamics affecting the workforce post-COVID.
Employers are clamoring for talent and having a very hard time acquiring it, while the pandemic-related unemployment benefits are disincentivizing some to return to work.
But this is a big opportunity for our young people to seize…and it pays off big in lifetime benefits!
First, the workplace is the best place to genuinely learn the “soft,” or employability skills that give them incredible value in their future careers. Summer jobs can be the beginning of a career journey that will point their lives in an entirely different direction than they could have imagined.
Research has proven that summer jobs are tied to higher earning power over a lifetime. Even those first few paychecks are life changing – realizing the good feeling of earning your own money and learning how to manage it wisely.
Summer jobs help students understand the great value of their skills and abilities outside of the classroom, where success is measured primarily in grades, which become mostly irrelevant once the education journey is over.
However, summer jobs are also tied to better academic performance of students after their work experience, partly because what they are learning in the classroom is now more relevant to how it’s applied in the workplace. As students prepare for the transition from high school to college, summer jobs can point them in the direction of the right majors, credentials, and diplomas, too.
My own journey was deeply shaped by a summer job. I had already had my “first job” working for my dad for free in a restaurant long before I turned 16. But, building on what I had learned there, I got a summer job that completely changed my life. I had the opportunity to work for a major corporation in their Internal Communications Department. High rise building, office-type environment, people wearing suits and ties…very different than what I had experienced before.
The culture of this workplace was completely foreign to me, but I learned and adapted and built relationships with people who wanted to invest in me. They entrusted me with responsibilities that far exceeded my 17-year-old self, but I discovered I was good at researching and writing, which led me to ultimately change my college major to journalism on my way to a career in public relations.
That job paved the way to my next summer and part-time job in Public Relations at Blue Bell Creameries located in the same town where I went to college. Three-years later I was hired full-time and, ultimately, became Public Relations Director. The rest, as they say, is history.
Without those two summer jobs, the rest of my life would have turned out very differently.
There are numerous types of life-changing opportunities that our youth can explore this summer. If you never worked before, a restaurant or a retail store builds an enormously strong foundation of skills no matter where you go. Take advantage of the opportunity to get solid on the basics: customer service, communication, problem solving, teamwork, critical thinking, and more. It doesn’t matter what you do next, these are the TOP skills requested by employers in ANY industry.
If you’ve already got those skills, then look around. There are jobs available in our healthcare industry, our agriculture industry, and our companies who do moving and shipping and manufacturing, just to name a few.
Don’t just rely on texting or emails. If you want to distinguish yourself, pick up the phone and call to express your interest and learn more. Go into the business and introduce yourself. Help them see how you can contribute to the success of what they’re doing.
You may be just the one they’re looking for.