Does a young person in your life have a “mindless” summer job right now? Harvard professor Jennifer Finney Boylan, writing in The New York Times, reminisced about the “so-called stupid jobs” she had as a teenager and young adult – including selling hot dogs and mowing lawns, working as an office temp and messenger, and hawking T-shirts at Grateful Dead concerts. “These jobs,” she wrote, “made me aware of class privilege in a way that my hours in Econ 101 surely did not.”
We agree that gaining some understanding of many different social realities can be one benefit of students’ summer jobs, but there are many more. Unless you are a lighthouse keeper, virtually every job entails communication skills, and many present opportunities for teamwork and collaboration. Learning to deal with a cross-section of customers and a spectrum of management styles, whether working at a retail store, in a restaurant, or on a construction crew, can provide invaluable experience for later positions.
In the theater, there is a saying: “There are no small parts.” Likewise, there are no small jobs. Taking pride in every job we do, staying engaged in the work, navigating conflict if it arises—even making and recovering from rookie mistakes—all prepare young people for the challenges ahead.
We want to hear: What valuable lessons did you learn from a summer job? To join the conversation, click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.