7 Lessons To Be Learned From Your First Summer Job As A Student


Getting through your first student summer job is like learning how to ride a bike.

At first things are a bit wobbly and you need a bit more support, possibly even some training, to get your feet off the ground, but once you get going, there’s no stopping you. With nothing but the open road in front of you, you can steer yourself straight to career success.

That first student summer job – when everything is still new – can be scary, but your first experience in a summer job will also teach you crucial lessons for your professional future.

Regardless of whether you’re working as a dog walker or a business assistant, remember these seven lessons and doing well at new jobs in the future will come naturally, just like riding a bike.

1. How to work a full day

School is not real life. Having a day broken up by different classes where you may or may not pay attention in no way prepares you for the nine-to-five grind.

Learning how to get up and get working on time, five days a week is more challenging than it may sound. But since most companies run on the same hours, learning how to work effectively on the corporate schedule is an essential skill.

If you have trouble sitting still and staying focused for that long, try taking a few short breaks away from your desk throughout the day and, instead of eating lunch at your desk or at a lunchroom table, go outdoors. When the weather isn’t on your side, take a stroll around the office or up and down the stairs.

2. How to be office appropriate

Working in an office is not like working in the library. Showing up in summer shorts and a tank top, chatting with your neighbours about your crazy night out and blasting Call Me Maybe on your breaks is a quick way to get booted from the office (and probably out of the library for the matter).

Learning the basics about how to dress and behave in an office setting is crucial for any work environment.

3. How to communicate effectively in an office setting

Part of learning the ropes in your first job is learning how to talk to people in an office setting. Communicating your ideas to your colleagues is not like chatting with your friends. Being able to easily and effectively convey your thoughts to others as well as developing the courage to speak up during meetings will help you stand out in future positions.

4. How to create and maintain connections

That first summer job marks the beginning of your professional network. Making connections with people in the office and maintaining those relationships will give you the opportunity to learn about the business from the people on the inside and ensure you have ready references for interviews. Work relationships are also a great way of resource for future work opportunities.

Connect with everyone you work with on LinkedIn and, if appropriate, ask them to write a recommendation for you.

5. How to manage an income

Working full time for the first time is likely also the first time you’ll be making the big bucks. Dealing with money matters is not only a good business skill but also an essential life skill. Managing your income and learning not to “spend it all in one place” will help you ensure that those paycheques continue get bigger.

Recommended reading: How To Save The Money You Make At Your Summer Job

6. How to ask for and deal with feedback

In school, the feedback you get is written on your paper or reflected in your grades. At home, the pointers you get from your parents or your friends might not always get put into practice. But in the workplace, the feedback you get is an invaluable resource and learning how to seek out and use criticism constructively to build your career will help you grow as an individual and as an employee.

7. What you DON’T like to do

Chances are that first summer job isn’t what you’re hoping to do for the rest of your life. However, working in fast food, retail sales or as an unpaid intern for a summer will give you a sense of what you like and what you don’t like in a job. Getting that experience will help steer you in the direction of a job that you truly love for the future.

Which lessons did you learn at your first summer job?

Photo credit: Stephen Jr at my desk by sizemoresr on Flickr
About the author

Ishani Nath is a proud McMaster alum, aspiring writer and current journalism grad student at Ryerson University. When she's not hammering out articles, she can usually be found on a patio or nestled on a couch trying to keep up with those crazy Kardashians. She hopes to one day have a job that makes her excited to get up each morning, or at least one that gives her free food. Intrigued? Enthralled? Learn more by following her on @ishaninath.