Faced with the prospect of hanging out with friends and catching some rays or spending all day hunched over a cash register or computer, most teens and twenty somethings would likely choose the lounging around.
But the time spent working a summer job -- even at entry-level -- can be a valuable stepping stone in any career. Here's the inside scoop on seasonal employment from young people who've been in the trenches, as well as salary information from online salary database PayScale.com.
1. Fast Food Worker/Sandwich Artist
Median hourly wage: $7.34
Donning a paper hat and plastic gloves need not be a grind, even when you're making grinders. Cody Musser worked at a small-town Subway sandwich shop outside Pittsburgh, Pa., while attending college. Musser says he earned minimum wage for serving sandwiches to order, prepping vegetables, opening and closing the store, and cleaning. He was also expected to take money to the bank and train new hires.
The takeaway: Musser says working hard can get you rewards that may come with stress and responsibility. Also, he says, "On Subway hoagies, they expect you to put six pickles and six olives on a 12" sandwich. That's it. It's all about the bottom line."
Median hourly wage: $8.13
Lindsey Tramuta worked as a part-time barista at Starbucks outside of Philadephia while she was a college student. Earning just a bit more than minimum wage, Tramuta was responsible for making drinks, answering questions from customers about the coffee, maintaining cleanliness, and handling transactions. Tramuta says she stuck to those duties because Starbucks' corporate culture doesn't allow much straying from employee guidelines.
The takeaway: Working at Starbucks gave Tramuta a useful introduction to working as a team, and adapting to new environments, conditions and management styles. "It also showed me that I was not destined for a career in sales," adds Tramuta.
Median hourly wage:$12.33
Kelly Watkins spent the last three summers working at Activision Minneapolis Publishing testing video games and making around $9 an hour. She says testers often work 12-hour days or more depending on how their game was doing. Responsibilities included playing through levels multiple times while using grids to check functionality and then reporting bugs into a data management system. Watkins says attention to detail and writing clearly, effectively, and without spelling or punctuation errors is a must.
The takeaway: Watkins wants to work in the industry after graduation, so she's using the job to network while learning how the quality assurance shapes a game. She's also learned how to work with people she doesn't get along with and how to think critically and communicate effectively.
Median hourly wage: $14.54
Jon Stone is currently working as an account executive at a public relations firm but he cut his PR teeth at a Washington, D.C., firm during a summer break in college. At $7 per hour, Stone was responsible for media monitoring, mail organization, research support, cold calling, and event/street team coordination. He even dressed as a giant mouse for an event.
The takeaway: "I gained insight into the way that marketers, public relations professionals, the media, and private companies collaborate to share messages with the public. The most important skill I learned was how to conquer any shyness or awkward feelings that come with cold calling."
5. Recreation Coordinator/Camp Counselor
Median hourly wage: $12.85
While she was still in high school, Stacy Lipson worked every summer as a day camp counselor. She was paid $5 per hour to manage and ensure the safety of a group of 4- and 5-year olds. She organized playtime and educational games, developed a swimming-lesson program, served food, and cleaned up. Jumping in the pool fully clothed and administering the Heimlich were just two ways she had to rescue children in trouble.
The takeaway: As a camp counselor, Lipson learned real-life skills including determination and flexibility and gained an appreciation for childcare. "If you don't like children, or faint at the sight of blood, it's not the job for you," she says.
Median hourly wage: $8.12
Jake Green worked at Abercrombie & Fitch in Santa Rosa, Calif., while he was still in college. As a brand representative, Green answered customer questions, organized and stocked store items, facilitated purchases, and monitored changing rooms. His compensation was $7.25 per hour. Despite not having a dress code policy, store management encouraged Green to wear certain clothes, colors and shoes -- a typical practice at apparel retailers.
The takeaway: In addition to perfecting his garment-folding skills, Green got a handle on basic retail store and business functions.
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Source: Salary data provide by PayScale.com. Salaries listed are hourly wages for full-time employees and do not include any bonuses or tips.