Lessons learned from summer jobs

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The season of summer won't officially arrive until June 21, but for all practical purposes, it began this week as the last schools in the county dismissed classes for the summer.

As we settle into new sleeping and traffic patterns and routines, it is nice to enjoy the change. Although I believe boredom will soon be rearing its ugly head in many households.

Our youngest daughter is home from her freshman year of college and we have quickly adjusted to having her home once again. Moving her out of her dorm room even went well, but we are still wondering where we previously stored the things that came home with her from Minnesota.

Many teens are working their first summer jobs. Joining the real world, even part-time, is an eye-opening experience for many, providing some life lessons that can't be taught anywhere else.

The market for summer jobs is tighter than normal, due to the economy. When adults are forced to compete with teens for jobs, more often than not the adult will get the job.

When I was a teen, I held down a couple of jobs. Delivering papers was the primary source of income, rising every morning to get the news of the day out to my customers before they went to work.

I believe I carried papers for eight years, until sometime during my senior year. It didn't take a great deal of time and was done in the relative quiet and obscurity of the pre-dawn. After a certain age, it is considered "uncool" to deliver newspapers, even if you can't secure another job. Delivering papers in the early morning allows you to keep the job longer. And, during the summer, it was the best time of the day.

I also worked in the local grocery store, stocking shelves, bagging groceries and taking them out to the customer's vehicles. There is something to be said for learning the proper way to bag groceries. As a consumer for the rest of your life, you appreciate the skills of a good grocery sacker and curse a poor one. One of the adults that worked at the store made sure that we sacked groceries so that the customers would actually be able to carry them out of the car when they arrived at home.

Another lesson learned from working in a grocery store: there is always something to be done. Even when you think you have accomplished all the tasks that you have been given, there is the endless task of facing, moving items to the front of the shelves so they can be seen and are easier to reach for customers. It makes the store look nice as well.

Then there were the summers walking beans and detasseling corn. I believe that everyone should do both at least once. Walking beans, out in the June sun, is hard work and good exercise. There's also lots of open area and you usually can catch a breeze from somewhere.

Breezes are few and far between when you are detasseling. The claustrophobic corn rows seem to go on for miles and miles. Detasseling, back in the stone ages when I did it, was on a contract basis with a set deadline. That meant that you kept on going back into the field until the job was done, no matter what the weather, no matter what day of the week. There's nothing quite like trudging through the mud after a sudden downpour, pulling tassels out of corn plants over your head while trying to keep the bugs at bay.

Detasseling teaches the value of hard, physical labor and is very good motivation to get an education so you don't have to ever do it again. Walking beans, back when I did it, taught me the value of work, but also gave me an appreciation of the nature and hospitality of farmers. The farm family that I worked for truly made me feel like I was a part of their family. It was a wonderful experience.

All of these jobs gave me valuable lessons. I hope the young people who were lucky enough to secure work for the summer take home more than a paycheck in the next 12 weeks.

As always, I welcome your comments. You can reach me by email at tstangl@lemarscomm.net, telephone 712-546-7031, x40 or toll free 1-800-728-0066 x40.

Thanks for reading, I'll keep in touch. Feel free to do the same.