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You shouldn't forget the lessons your summer job taught you

Posted by Dr. Phil Yaeger on Jun 29, 2017 2:24:59 PM

Summer is officially here and brings back memories of younger days, less worry, and for most of us, our first job. High schoolers usually enter the workforce for the first time during summer vacations. Fewer students these days get to experience and mature in this way as sport and scholastic camps and/or experiences becoming a job (albeit unpaid) in their own sense during the summer. For those of us who did get to experience the love-hate relationship with scooping ice cream, tearing tickets at the theater, or waiting tables, there are valuable lessons we could use to apply to our jobs today.

Providing the Best Customer Service

You may no longer be on the bottom of the totem pole, but that doesn't mean you treat others as if they are. Operating yourself throughout the day with a greeting and a smile means as much now as ever. Polite interactions, making sure your client not only receives their services but feels happy about it, and seeing their experience from start to finish with the same care was stressed in our teenage years and remains important now. Even through emails or phone calls, you should be in the mindset that the most important customer is the one with which you're currently dealing. You should be critiquing yourself in these areas, ask yourself at the end of the day or week if you would appreciate being treated how you treat your clients. Try keeping a log of client interactions for one week and grade yourself after each one to evaluate yourself on things like timeliness, tone, and quality of service. Doing this can be humbling but also allow you to take a step back and focus on making improvements if needed before they become a problem.

Taking Direction

This is one area we see people continually struggle. Not only how to receive advice and constructive criticism, but how to take in a compliment or accolade. When we take our first job there was training; how to clock in, how to open, how to greet a customer, how to work the register - how to do everything. Then, we got used to the system, learned to follow directions and specialize in our craft of simple yet efficient work. Doing a good job could mean a small raise while doing a bad one resulted in a quick fire, little thought or stress caused by either.

Professional adults face many similar-yet-different (in a much more serious manner) circumstances. Instead of going through orientation (which most still do some version of) we went to college, graduate school, and are looking to attain certifications. Our current checklists are often assumed rather than defined. Working as an adult is both more demanding and vague... do I need to take the CPA Exam or not? We need to not only accept direction when it comes but often ask for it or glean it from silent sources when it is available. Take your eyes off the computer every now and again to see how others respond to management and try asking those in higher positions what they did at their stage in your career. Don't take the advice you get too personally nor disregard small compliments as no big deal. Instead, remember what it was like when little things made a big difference at your first job - when your manager wouldn't see right away if you swept under the counter but would notice in the long run and when you took pride in your work even if it only resulted in a ten cent raise. Remember a compliment lets you know what you're great at and can often be worth more than an immediate raise, creating loyalty and opportunity from your employer in the future. You are not trying to keep a summer job, but rather are building a career.

Setting Goals

When you were tearing tickets or bringing table 12 their fourth refill, you knew there was a long way to go and that you wanted to do something greater with your life. Now, it could easily be assumed you've reached the top and no longer need to improve. The thing is, isn't that just as boring as assuming you achieved your potential by going from having no job to your first one? You are where you are because you strove for better, and you should be trying to improve for the rest of your life. Ambition is not just for the sake of making more money or moving up in a company; it's there to keep you fresh, feeling lively, and happy. Many grow tired of their career and think they need a new one not because their current situation is bad but merely because they've taken it for granted.

We've all heard someone say "I need a change" but is it really true or do you just need a shot of ambition? As a kid, people assume you want to strive for more whereas being an adult means people are more likely to assume you're done growing and no longer question your potential. This is a real challenge we face because often means pitting contentment and drive against each other. The best way to approach this is to strive for contentment and drive to work alongside each other. You should love where you are, but also expect to look back in a year and see growth. You should know you are growing yourself and moving enthusiastically into the future. Otherwise, what are you giving yourself to look forward to or be excited about?

This is all to say you should be keeping your professional life fresh. Don't be afraid to act like a bright-eyed-and-bushy-tailed greenhorn. The worst thing you could do is coast and ask only for what you've already done as it will result in you and your employer both wanting for more.

Tags: Accounting News

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