Lessons from a Summer Job

A new high school grad, I began working as a teller at a small bank in my hometown.  I was excited for my very first real job, a full-time summer position that would help me to afford some of the costs of moving away to college at the end of the season. I was expected to report to work from 8am to 4:30pm daily, and would be making $7.25 per hour.

I was thrilled to begin building my resume. In the beginning, I viewed the opportunity as nothing more than a day-to-day job. I clocked in, cashed checks, clocked out for lunch, clocked back in, cashed more checks, sometimes working the main lobby, sometimes the drive-thru lanes, balanced my drawer, clocked out, went home. On Fridays, I got paid. On weekends, I purchased basic needs for living in a college dorm or books. It wasn’t until the position ended and I began college that I realized how much I’d learned in those seemingly repetitive three months. I enjoyed the position and appreciated all that I was learning so much that I requested it for the next three summers.
I took away several valuable lessons from that seasonal position; I credit the following as being pivotal in molding my work ethic early on, providing me with the experience I needed to succeed throughout college and future positions:
Punctuality = respect.  The simple responsibility of using the time clock taught me a lot about how valuable it is to a company to be reliable, timely, and accurate. Supervisors rarely question work ethic when an employee is always on time, completes duties in an efficient and thorough manner, and dedicates him or herself to the company up until shift’s end. When you’re on time, you’re respected. When you do as you’re asked, there isn’t a whole lot to question. There wasn’t a day that I didn’t feel respected; my co-workers knew they could depend on me, which gave me confidence and the desire to continue good work habits.  I loved that feeling of respect so much; I try to be punctual in every way possible today.
Patience is a must – everywhere, all the time. Ensuring customers that their money is being well taken care of is not always easy. I was taught very early on that no matter what the situation, the customer is always right. This was hard to process as an 18 year old, but I quickly learned that it truly is the only way to deal with the day to day happenings at the teller window and everywhere else, for that matter. Serving the public is never the same on any given day, so learning to be patient is a necessity in not only surviving but actually enjoying the job.  I have found that being patient with customers back then continues to follow me today; when faced with a tense situation, whether it’s while I’m in line at the deli or explaining our recruiting services to an applicant, I reason whether or not it’s best to be patient or take action, or a combination of both. Is it worth tapping your foot or rushing? Or are you better off breathing and reasoning?
Always breathe and reason first. I can remember several specific bank customers who taught me the value in breathing and reasoning very early on.
Professionalism is productivity is power. Following a dress code, demonstrating class and professionalism toward customers and co-workers, and maintaining a mature demeanor throughout my shift helped me keep a job but also helped me be a more productive employee.  When you dress well, you feel well, and you work well.  When you carry on a professional manner, it’s reflected in the high quality of work you produce. At the end of the day, being professional leads to higher productivity, and higher productivity leads to being respected, feeling confident, and eventually, growth.
A simple summer job truly helped craft my current work ethic, and I still find myself reflecting back to those years at times when I’m unsure of how to handle a situation.  Summer jobs are more than just paying gigs – they can be earning experiences that will influence one’s entire career.

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