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Your Take: Your First Summer Job

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Periphonics LogoNow that summer has unofficially started (officially it won’t be for another few weeks), I thought it would be fun if everyone shared their first summer job and what they learned from it.

My first summer job was as an intern at Periphonics, an interactive voice response company that was acquired by Nortel Networks shortly after I left. It was the summer of 1999 and I had just come home from a year at Carnegie Mellon, surviving the second “weeding out” semester, and thought I could put my awesome collection of computer science skills to work. If memory serves me, I was developing a web interface for a playback tool they were developing.

The basic idea was that Periphonics had, in addition to the automated menu systems (IVR), call center tools that recorded incoming calls. If you call up a company and they say “this call may be monitored,” well that’s what Periphonics did. They recorded it and played it back along with a video screen capture of the CSR who took the call. Supervisors could review the entire call and see what the representative was doing at the time.

Today, I’m sure the tools are all streamlined but back then we were syncing up the audio and video on a single webpage and it was cutting edge. I enjoyed it. I can’t remember the specifics of the technology but I do remember thinking that it was fun trying to solve this problem of syncing things up, using various plugins that weren’t meant for each each other.

I learned that corporate life had a lot of red tape, lots of forms, and lots of approvals. I learned that a boss isn’t necessarily smarter than his or her subordinates, just better at other skills; no one has the right answer and life is about figuring stuff out on your own.

What was your first summer job?

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41 Responses to “Your Take: Your First Summer Job”

  1. DIY Investor says:

    My first summer job was working the soda fountain at the local drugstore. I learned how to make a mean grilled cheese sandwich, that people are needy, and that you don’t make as much as you thought you would because of Uncle Sam. In terms of people being needy – I had my “regulars” who told me the details of their lives. They just needed someone to listen. A valuable skill for a teenager to learn. Actually, it was a fun job and I hated to give it up when school started!

  2. Martha says:

    My first summer job was babysitting but I guess my “real” first summer job was working at Michael’s (the craft store). I learned very quickly that any job that only pays $5.75/hr will not provide much money after all the taxes and Social Security/FICA, etc. are removed! I also learned that a pleasant demeanor got you better jobs, e.g. running the kids camp, or running the pottery section! Eventually it even got me a promotion. :)

  3. Jamie says:

    My first summer job was working in the local pharmacy/dime store. My primary responsibility was running the soda fountain (DIY Investor, we only had flavored cokes and sprites and candy…no hot foods or ice cream). Anyway, all I earned was $.75/hour. I worked there all four high school years and the most I ever made was $1.25/hr my senior year. When I came back from college on breaks, they paid me minimum wage. I learned that a job was something you were fortunate to have and any income is better than none.

    • DIY Investor says:

      Ha! Maybe I found someone on this site older than me. I made $1.00/hour. It was the type of job that got me to leave generous tips in the years that followed.

  4. cubiclegeoff says:

    Except for the paper route and the answering phones, do crap work job at a local church. my first decent summer job was as a sailing instructor. Hanging out on the water all day, driving a boat, having fun and getting paid decently, it was by far the best job I’ve ever had. I’m not sure I learned too much, except maybe being political when it comes to parents.

  5. My first summer job was babysitting. I made a whopping $1/hr, but I was not old enough to legally work anywhere yet, and all I had to do was play games and entertain one kid. We ended up playing Mario Kart (this was back on the 64) all day long… so I guess you could almost say I was a professional Mario Kart player. :)

    But yeah, echoing what others have said, when I got my first “real” job, I was making minimum wage ($4.75), and it really didn’t amount to much after taxes, but the lesson I learned from it was to take as little as possible from that amount for spending, and put everything else into savings (and not touch it). Months and months of that paid for my first car.

  6. billsnider says:

    My first summer job was delivering meat for a local butcher. I had no basket for my bike so I had to hold it in one hand/arm and use the other to steer.

    After a few days of this I now had a few bucks. My biggest need was a basket to carry orders which would have relieved the pain in my arm and also allow me to deliver more.

    So I went out and bought my biggest need with my new money. Nope, it wasn’t a basket. It was a ping pong table and paddles. I loved the game and had to make that my first purchase.

    Yes, you guessed it. My arm hurt for weeks. But it was fun.

    Bill Snider

  7. zapeta says:

    My first job was working at Best Buy…I worked there for several years through high school and college. I learned that listening is very important, how to work with co-workers and a boss that you hate, and all of the red tape that you have to deal with in a job like that. The most important thing that the job taught me was that I needed to stay in school so I could avoid working there forever!

    • Anonymous says:

      “The most important thing that the job taught me was that I needed to stay in school so I could avoid working there forever!”

      That is certainly true. I have a job that’s teaching me the same lesson.

      Erica :)

  8. Mark says:

    First summer job was as a bagger at the local grocery, pretty boring. Second summer job was as a uniformed security guard/plain clothes body guard. As an 18 year old it sounded pretty neat, but not so much, 95% boredom followed by 5% over stimulation. I made $5 an hour and could not wait for that summer to end. I was pepper sprayed, shot at, kicked, threatened, and nearly run over. I so desperately want to go back to bagging groceries. Boring seemed pretty good!

  9. Shirley says:

    My very first job began when I was eleven years old. I babysat for friends and neighbors for .50 per hour. During the summer when school was out I babysat for working mothers too, for $3 per day. At 14 I also took in ironing for .10 per piece. (Guess who has NO ironables now!)

    At 16 I started working at our local newspaper selling advertising and learned that ads were a whole lot easier to sell at County Fair time and Christmas season! This was a time when I also learned so very much about people, timing, and adjusting to different personalities. That probably serves me well to this day.

  10. Ron says:

    My first job was in the meat market at a local grocery store. You really DON’T want to know the things I learned.

  11. cdiver says:

    My first summer job was working in a daycare/nursery. I learned how fragile and demanding children are and gained respect for parents in general.

  12. My first summer job was working as a field engineer for a general contractor (not my field at all, which is computer engineering). It was really fun because I was able to mix up both office work and field work outside. I learned a lot about dealing with people. It was difficult at first, but it ended up being incredibly rewarding.

  13. Lifeguard in the ghetto at a public pool. We basically ran a daycare center for urban kids whose parents didn’t want to watch their kids in the summer. I loved every second of it (worked there for 3 years)

    • daenyll says:

      I was a lifeguard too, we had the regular “pool rats” that were mostly from the trailer park down the road and never behaved, even though many of them new the rules better than the lifeguards. Course it would have helped if the majority of the male lifeguards weren’t as busy drenching the female guards during rotations or goofing off during their breaks. Worked there for a couple summers in HS, then moved on to a summer hire program at the factory where my dad worked for the 1st couple summers of college before I qualified for co-ops.

  14. fairydust says:

    Summer camp counselor up in Michigan. Best job ever! I’d go back in an instant if the place were still open and running…

  15. freeby50 says:

    My first real summer job was working as a janitor at a restaurant. Minimum wage for 2 hours x 7 days a week. The hours weren’t great but not horrible, the work itself was ok. The boss was a total jerk. I quit after 2-3 weeks as soon as I found something better. I learned that some bosses are jerks.

  16. Marcie says:

    My first summer job was the summer after my first year of college. I worked at a car dealership and would demonstrate features of the cars and go on test drives with people. I got paid $14/hour (in 2001). Pretty awesome actually.

  17. Money Smarts says:

    My first summer job was in high school at a grocery store, pushing shopping carts back inside, and occasionally bagging groceries. It paid minimum wage, which at the time was around $4.50-5. What did I learn? I learned the value of hard work, and of sometimes doing something you don’t want to, because hard work pays off. I don’t miss pushing those carts though – i promise you!

  18. Erica says:

    First summer job I worked as a fill-in secretary at an office. I was a good typist so I zipped through everything and I discovered that lots of people brought me extra work to do because I didn’t take breaks. Taught me the value of slowing down and not making the regular person look bad!

  19. otipoby says:

    In high school, I worked on a farm baleing and hauling hay. This manual labor with barely minimum wage let me know how important school was.

    My first “professional” summer job (during my college years) was as a engineering technician testing satellite batteries. This job showed me how much uncle sam takes out of your paycheck.

  20. Cathie says:

    My first summer job was working for a potato farmer on Long Island. I learned what work really was! I don’t remember what minimum wage was then, but I do believe we were paid below it. Most of the pay was piece i.e. when we picked beans, it was by the bushel, when we hoed cucumbers (I HATED cucumbers that summer!) we got paid by the hour, etc. We worked from sunrise to sunset, and I didn’t have the energy for anything but a shower, dinner and bed in that order. I learned that girls got to watch the graders wax cucumbers while the boys laid irrigation pipes.;-)

  21. My first job was at an old school hardware store. Stocking shelves, ringing people up, etc. Then the owner opened up a 99 cent store across the street and I went over there.

  22. Travis says:

    My first job/summer job was in the summer of 1998 working at 7-eleven when I was 14. I did the majority of the stocking (when shipments came in), cleaning, and the things that other employees didn’t want to do (cleaning the bathrooms, collecting trash outside). I got paid $7.00/hour which was pretty good for my age and lack of experience, although it was really manual labor intensive.

    I worked there for two summers and after that I realized that working sucks (or at least that job did) and learned to manage my money better so that I wouldn’t necessarily have to have a summer job the following years of high school.

  23. Picking tomatoes in a greenhouse. Temps in high 90s, humidity as high as it could get without actually raining, 6-foot tall plants so bushy that we were constantly brushed by leaves that left us covered in sap. (Think “green shampoo” when I got home. Seriously.)
    But I didn’t care because I was making big money, baby: $1.35 an hour! Babysitting brought me only 75 cents to $1 an hour. I felt rich.
    My friend and I had to ride our bikes there each day, probably about four miles round-trip. Yet we still played baseball after supper, until it got too dark to see. I wish I had some of that energy now.

  24. Darren says:

    I worked for my uncle, but I don’t know how to describe what I was doing! I made minimum wage at the time, which I think was about %5.75. Boy the days were long!

  25. Sarah in Alaska says:

    After I gave up my paper route…I was a wordprocessor for a local insurance company. I mostly worked on watercraft renewal forms. I learned to listen to instructions/ask clarifying questions and to speak up when I needed something.


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