Summer Better Than Others

by Larry Stevenson

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    Want a summer job that does more than earn a little extra cash? One that can lead to a satisfying career? Here are some valuable tips.

    Each year thousands of young men and women spend the summer treasure hunting. The treasure: jobs.

    Of course, most of the job seekers settle for minimum-wage work at a burger place or a grocery checkout stand. And there’s nothing wrong with good, honest work.

    But some teenagers are mining a deeper treasure: summer jobs that can lead to satisfying careers. If you want to join in this kind of job hunt, here’s a six-step treasure map that may be helpful.

    Step 1: Recognize that traditional youth jobs are not your only option.

    Some teens are working in law firms, hospitals, engineering companies, and manufacturing plants. If you look hard enough you will find that many industries have opportunities for youth. In addition, some companies recruit a certain number of teens each year just to interest them in pursuing a career in that field. One petroleum company, for example, hires over 500 students each summer. Those who work hard and prove they are responsible are hired each year until they graduate. Then the best are offered permanent jobs.

    As a 14-year-old, Rick became fascinated with engineering design and seemed to have some aptitude for the work. He began researching design engineering and drafting. He read about it, talked to his school teachers and career guidance counselor, and interviewed engineers in his ward and stake. The more he learned, the more it appealed to him.

    As part of his investigation he met a man who owned a small mechanical engineering firm. The gentleman was willing to hire Rick part-time in the summers. Rick found he really loved computer-assisted design. During his senior year of high school, he designed a piece of equipment that the company now produces and markets.

    Step 2: Identify a job that interests you and meets your values.

    Values are those concepts which we hold in high esteem. Some common values include variety, responsibility, status, and money. For a Latter-day Saint, values such as gospel principles and home life are even more important. You measure potential jobs by how well they meet your interests and values. For example, let’s assume that you value variety in a job. Would it be wise to work in an assembly plant doing the same thing day in and day out? Obviously not—unless it would provide temporary help, like getting money for tuition, or if it could eventually lead you to a career providing the variety you value. In many situations values outweigh interests. This is especially true of gospel values.

    Chris, 17, was working for a supermarket that required him to work on Sundays. The more he stayed with the job, the more unhappy he became. He had always attended church and enjoyed the association with his fellow priests. He missed that brotherhood, but couldn’t see any other options open to him.

    While Chris was attending a youth conference, however, he realized that there was hope. One of the sessions was on selecting a career. The discussion leader stated, “You don’t have to settle for a job which doesn’t satisfy you. You have the ability, with God’s help, to take control of your own life.” After the session Chris talked to the instructor. Together they explored his options and discussed how to find the type of job he wanted.

    Four weeks later he started a job which paid more, was in a field which really excited him, and didn’t require him to work on Sundays.

    Step 3: Use summer or part-time jobs to experiment with a career.

    Many workers are dissatisfied with their jobs because they chose to wait until they completed the required education before finding out what the occupation was really like. Then they felt they had invested too much to start over.

    You can do better. Working in a job is the best way to discover if that occupation will satisfy you. Part-time and summer jobs—used properly—can help you find a satisfying life-long career.

    When Larry was nine years old he decided to pursue a career in law. Watching Perry Mason save unjustly accused defendants appealed to his sense of justice. In addition, a lawyer’s ability to lift people and improve their life coincided with his belief that people should love and serve one another.

    Soon the whole family knew of Larry’s desire to be a lawyer. When Larry turned 17, his mother’s cousin invited Larry to work for his law firm. Larry was thrilled. Three nights a week he would go to the law library to do research. He spent the evenings reading, and reading, and reading. Larry enjoyed reading, but the cases did not excite him. In the summer he worked full-time for the law firm filing papers, serving subpoenas, and doing other tasks.

    The more he learned, the more he discovered how much Perry Mason failed to show. Yes, lawyers did all the things that had excited him so much. Unfortunately, they also did a lot of things that didn’t excite him. Finally, he realized he didn’t want to practice law.

    He became a career counselor instead, an occupation that has made him happier than he ever thought possible. He is grateful to his mother’s cousin who gave him a chance to find out, before going through all the schooling, that he would not enjoy law.

    Step 4: Be willing to work for experience.

    You are not going to be able to start at the top with part-time or summer jobs. But entry level or related jobs can at least involve you in the career in which you are interested. Frequently, these preliminary jobs can lead to better skills and promotions while you are preparing for your ultimate goal. Some employers may let you work without pay, just to gain experience.

    LeAnn, 16, is considering a profession in law. During her sophomore year in high school she took typing and secretarial classes. That summer she found a law firm that was willing to hire her as a receptionist. She was paid better than she would have been in traditional summer work. In addition, she was able to observe the workings of a law firm. She was also improving her secretarial skills and developing a legal background. (A good legal secretary can make 50–75 percent more than a general secretary.)

    Step 5: Develop transferable skills during your summer experience.

    Most students can supplement their education with real work experience. Many universities offer internships as part of the curriculum. They realize that graduates with experience in the field understand the theory being taught and can apply it more quickly. Companies also recognize the benefits of hiring interns and may offer jobs after graduation.

    Delynn, 24, accepted an internship with the computer division of a major local employer. During her internship she worked on several challenging projects. The established programmers taught her techniques she had not learned through her course work. She worked hard and learned as much as she could. After the internship, she kept in touch. As graduation drew closer, her former supervisor asked if she would be interested in coming back to the firm. She also received several offers from other companies. Delynn chose the company she had interned with, because she knew the environment in which she would be working and enjoyed the challenges she knew she would receive. Since she had already worked for them, the company assigned her to a key project within weeks of starting.

    Step 6: If you can’t find the right job—create it.

    You can’t sit around waiting for the ideal part-time job to fall into your lap. Sometimes you must take initiative.

    Dave, 27, had long dreamed of going into advertising. His father was an excellent graphic designer in Los Angeles. Dave would spend hours talking to his father about the business. He would help with pasteups and layouts. He had a natural eye and quickly developed the skills to be a fine designer. When he went to BYU, he tried to find a company willing to hire him, but he had no luck. So he decided to see if he could create his own job.

    He contacted a printing shop and found they occasionally needed design work. He visited companies he thought would benefit by his artistic talents. He found school organizations and clubs willing to pay for a flyer or poster. He also found companies needing an artist for advertisements and other business needs. Soon Dave was very busy, and the work he was doing helped his schoolwork, too.

    After graduation, Dave went to work for a major advertising agency.

    People like Rick, Chris, Larry, LeAnn, Delynn, and Dave are finding treasure through part-time and summer jobs.

    It isn’t easy. Creative job seekers have to work harder than those who follow more traditional paths, but the treasure they find is a rewarding life’s work. Maybe it’s time for you to do a little treasure hunting yourself.

    Finding That Job

    1. Identify occupations that interest you and satisfy your values.

    2. Read about these occupations in the library.

    3. Talk to people who are involved in the occupations. Ask what they do each day, what they enjoy and dislike about their jobs, how they got into the field, what a teenager could do to be a part of the occupation, and what other people you could talk with.

    4. Carefully weigh the advice given by the people you interview. Let them give you additional tips.

    5. Keep at it until you are successful. If you need to accept another part-time job, do so. Just don’t give up on your long-term objective.

    A videotape series titled Job Search: The Inside Track (VNVV3621 and PEWE0358) is available from Church distribution centers to help you develop your job-seeking skills. Your parents, Young Men/Young Women leader, or ward employment specialist can help you through the series.

    Photography by Welden Andersen

    Vance Larsen wants a career in commercial aviation. He got in on the ground floor with a job refueling airplanes. He learns a lot from supervisor Mike McCarty (right) and other aviation professionals.

    Elise Ellsworth (right) started as a volunteer at a local community theater. Now she works part-time, learning bookkeeping, scheduling, etc. from supervisor Linda Moore.

    Under the direction of grandfather Jack Sr., Jeff Brimhall learns the complexities and the fine points of the family’s restaurant and catering business. Apron strings aren’t all bad.