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Today It's A Summer Job, Tomorrow It's A Reference

We are in the midst of summer.  A lot of students are working.  Many are in jobs that are not internships in their potential future field.  Plain and simple, millions are working to sock away some money.

So let’s say you have ‘a job.’  You don’t love it.  Maybe you don’t even like it.  It is just a‘summer job.’

The best outcome is, of course:

  • You were amazing
  • You have a reference who will rave about you
  • You stood out from all others
  • You have an open door to come back (even if you don’t want to)
  • You begin a career-long habit of over-delivering and exceeding expectations
  • And in so doing, you enhanced your personal brand

An alternative approach could be:

It was just ‘a job.’  It doesn’t matter; it was just a ‘summer job.’  So you don’t fully apply yourself.  You just, ‘do the job.’


Maybe you feel that the job is beneath you.  You are over-qualified.  You just took it because you needed ‘a job.’  And again, you don’t give it your A-Game.

Either way, know that success is a habit, and being excellent in all things, is also a habit.  So being great at this ‘summer job’ is more important for you than the job itself.

How do you get there?  How can you achieve excellence this week:

1. Ask

  • Every boss or supervisor loves it when employees strive to be better.  Ask open-ended question like, ‘over the last two or three summers, who do you remember was the best employee you ever had?  What did they do that made them stand out?’

2. Be curious

  • Always look for ways to innovate and do things better.  Strive to be exceptional.  Those who do, do it intentionally.  See things from the perspective of the customers you are ultimately serving or the company that is employing you.  Try to make their outcomes better.

3. Be positive

  • Everything goes better when you are positive.  Fellow employees, your boss, your customers and everyone who you come in contact with are impressed and often inspired by a positive approach.  The old adage about the glass being half full or half empty is merely how you look at it.  PS, it is half full.

4. Help others

  • Being a leader, even if you are not in a leadership capacity, is rooted in helping others to perform better.  That goes for superiors, peers, subordinates, partners and customers.  If you come from the perspective to help others, you will learn more, innovate and be great yourself.

5. Be a team player

  • Remember a couple of elements of high employee engagement are:  Company above self and Mission above self.  Being a strong team player is making sure the team does well.  Know that the people who live by this credo take very good care of themselves in the process.  They get noticed and rewarded in a big way.

6. Always be on time

  • It is often said that half of life is showing up.  I would add on time and prepared (to do whatever your role is).  On the face of it, it seems crazy that the mere fact of being on time would weight so heavy on one’s success, but it is true.  Once you become a hiring manager, or you hire a contractor to do a project on your home, and call for cable installation, you will see just how rare it is to get consistent dependability.  Be dependable, this is habit as well.

Even though it was just a ‘summer job,’ it will provide real examples that very well might come up in an interview with the proverbial ‘behavioral interviewing’ questions that start with:  “Tell me about a time when you:

  • …disagreed with your boss”
  • …failed”
  • …had to work with a difficult customer”
  • …successfully handled a situation”
  • …had to take initiative”

Behavioral interviewing questions are common in the types of job you are ultimately seeking to launch your career or next summers internship.  They use past experience as an indicator of future performance.  If you can demonstrate from past examples that you have a high likelihood of applying these tendencies to the role you are interviewing for, you stand out.  Anyone can ‘say’ they can and will do something, but behavioral interviewing questions tries to ferret out who is the most likely to perform well in the new role.

Know that your ‘summer job’ is the proving ground of just how great you are, if you are great.  If not, become so.

If you are way overqualified then manifesting greatness should be easy.  Embrace you assignment with vigor.

Remember you are building your brand, setting your internal professional compass and building your work history.  Take every role as a chance to be excellent and leave that role with your employer wishing you never left.

One final thought:  During your career there will be chapters when you don’t have the best assignment or circumstances.  How you perform during these times is critical.  Performing well gives you the power and perspective to know you will get through this too, and it will pass.

Keep in mind that a resume does not build itself and that every job, even the seemingly unimportant ones can help you, IF you approach it properly.  It makes you look at the bigger picture beyond now.

How are you going to put this to work this summer?

What are you going to do differently tomorrow or even today?

Read this in a week and revisit the above two questions.

Now get after it.

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