Surviving Summer Job Blues


If you managed to find a student summer job, you’ve probably been at it for a while now. Things might have started well but, as the summer slowly wears on, it’s clear the honeymoon is over. That great new summer job, may start feeling like a grind, and toughing it out until school starts again can seem an impossible task.

But take heart! All is not lost, and with some simple steps, you can turn your summer around before September.

The excitement and thrill of landing a job for the summer can seem great at the time…

But the novelty can wear-off, and it’s replaced by the reality of what the job actually entails. That, or the employee finds the job wasn’t what they expected.  Maybe aspects of it that weren’t so bad at first are now driving them crazy. I talked to a student who was thrilled to get a job at a retail store. She was selling clothes and loved it. But after a while she noticed the music in the store was starting to bug her. It was on a repetitive loop and it wasn’t turned off until closing. She really appreciated the job, and felt ridiculous that this was turning into a peeve.

Other times, the job falls short of expectations. A university student landed a co-op job at an environmental agency and, at first, he was thrilled. But, soon found himself making the best of filing, archiving, photocopying, and reading old briefs. Still he was grateful for the work, but it fell short of what he thought he would be doing.

There some common scenarios summer workers need to navigate as the season wears on

A big one is working with the public. If your job is to interact with customers, by the close of summer you may start struggling with this. Weeks of serving, handling complaints or taking down information may start to wear. Even if you describe yourself as a people-person it can be hard. Seasoned workers, experienced in their jobs can find this taxing too, so, don’t feel too bad.

There are some ways to make it easier. If you’re starting to feel a bit burned-out, it might be because you’ve had to deal with a few nasty customers. Get help if someone is being abusive or harassing you and focus more on taking time with positive customers. Their positivity is contagious, so taking a bit longer with them will help it rub off on you.

Other situations can make a summer worker crazy

The boss…

This is a big one when working at a summer job. A lot of the time students have a great relationship with their boss, but that’s not always the case. Summer workers can feel watched, or micro-managed by their supervisor. It might have been okay at the beginning but now you know the job a bit better and it’s starting to get excessive. One thing to do, is try to see it from your boss’s point of view. Remember, they are being judged on how well you do. If you’re a star that makes them a star, so the boss who breathes down your neck is probably looking after their own reputation.

Co-workers can they make or break a summer job

You may have run into a co-worker by now, who rubs you the wrong way. As time goes by you’ll discover you naturally like working with some people and not others. Unlike most situations where you can just stay out of each others way, at work it’s not like that. So now you may feel stuck working shifts with someone you can’t stand. This is not unusual and happens every so often in the work world. So, if this is happening to you, sit back and focus on: “Why am I here?”

Besides making some money for school, of course.

Summer staff are usually filling in for regular people, lending an extra hand during a busy season or somehow helping the owner for a few months. So, try to think about why the business or organization hired you. Try focussing on the job rather than a bothersome co-worker, and you may find yourself enjoying your time better.

But above all else, remember, it’ll be over by September anyway, and the reference is more important that your annoying co-worker.

And the challenges don’t end there

Summer employees may find the hours difficult and fatigue can set in. Often, you’ll be doing hours regular staff want off, so you may find yourself pulling long hours, or asked to come in at the last moment. You may find yourself tired from standing or using muscles you didn’t know you had. Regular workers at your job have experience to build on, so they may not show the signs of fatigue that are bothering you. To handle soreness, try taking Epsom salt baths.

If it’s the hours or shifts, look at your schedule and make sure you are sleeping. Sometimes summer workers try burning the candle at both ends while working all summer and by the end, they’re exhausted. So, commit to some serious sleep and downtime between your shifts.

There are things employers can do to help

Summer jobs introduce new employees to work life. For some it will be a new experience, so be patient. Make sure summer employees understand safety requirements. Notice if they are fatigued or struggling with customers. Some may lack the stamina of regular staff, so take this into account. But most of all, always be willing to teach and guide.

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