A Case for Grown-Up Summer Jobs

Water navigation. Entertaining tourists. Playing DJ. Pulling people around on inflatable tubes. Captaining a tour boat on the lake seems like the best job. Or at least, so I thought as I watched a young Lake Lanier dock hand at work today.

Lots of us have fond memories of the days when we spent the hot summer months working temporary summer jobs like this one. I worked on my family’s farm, in a hardware store, and in an accounting software company for my summer jobs growing up, and I only wish I had had more.

There are few better ways to explore the world and get to know yourself than working in a new job. And when we’re young, every summer brings an opportunity for us to try something new. In a few intense months of work, we learn new skills, bond with a team, prove ourselves, and make some cash.

The summer job is one of America’s best inventions – based on those few months of freedom from schooling. Short-term summer work provides a wonderful way for young people to get into the real world and explore their interests. But what if summer jobs weren’t just for young people?

The same things that make summer jobs great could also help a lot of adults grow personally and professionally. What if – instead of taking certain vacations or certain holidays, more benefits or higher salaries – we took up new kinds of work on the side? We might work on a ranch out west, guide boats down white water rapids, or work on a cargo ship or cruise ship (all seem like interesting gigs to me).

Gig work is normal for a certain segment of our population, and summer work is normal especially for young people in school. But just imagine if we all took one month out of the year, dropped our salary expectations, and became beginners again?

Sure, this recommendation is a bit tongue in cheek. But with the right case to employers, leaves of absence (or just longer weekends) designed for summer jobs could become a fixture for some adventurous professionals out there. Employees and employers clearly gain from professional development, and there’s nothing like on the job experience for that. And there are ways you can implement the “grown-up summer job” already: freelancing, getting a second job, apprenticing for someone on your vacation days or weekends.

The sky’s the limit for skill acquisition, and I’d love to have a few more summer jobs in my life.


Intellectual influence: The Little Book of Lykke on job retraining in Denmark and The 4-Hour Workweek on building a case to employers for remote work, etc. 

James Walpole

James Walpole is a writer, startup marketer, and perpetual apprentice. You're reading his blog right now, and he really appreciates it. Don't let it go to his head, though.

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