Lessons from the Most Interesting Summer Jobs at Bateman Group – Part 3
When we initially launched the Bateman Summer Jobs Series during the summer of 2011, it was supposed to be a three-part series. Well, we never got to that third part until now. With the influx of new talent at Bateman Group, it’s a good of time as any to revisit this series (see part 1 and part 2).
For those who aren’t familiar with the series, we thought it’d be interesting to look at past summer jobs and examine how those summer jobs and the corresponding lessons learned apply to our role as PR professionals today.
Job: Ice Cream and Candy Sales Associate
Lesson Learned: Manage expectations
My first job ever was as a sales associate at a local ice cream and candy shop. It was a fabulous first job; taste testing new candies and ice cream flavors was obviously my favorite part. I also built some impressive arm strength that summer. While working there, I became familiar with one customer in particular who came into the shop on a very regular basis requesting hand-packed pints of banana ice cream. Packing pints was really an acquired skill, and she always wanted a couple so she wouldn’t have to come back so often. One day, the new tub of banana ice cream hadn’t been set out the night before so it was rock hard, frozen solid. Of course this was the day the Banana Lady, as we liked to call her, came in for her hand-packed pints. After explaining to her our predicament, it became clear that this was our job to do whatever it takes to get that banana ice cream into those pints for her. We then shaved ice cream bit by bit, and the Banana Lady left with her weekly supply of banana ice cream.
Lesson learned? Everyone expects a service if they are willing to pay the price, but sometimes the pain is not worth the gain on both ends. Before saying no, it’s always good to consider what you’re asking your customer to give up by doing so. Just as it was physically difficult for us to accomplish the task at hand, it was also inconvenient for her to wait around longer than expected or come back later. It is important to communicate obstacles that may stand in your way as a service provider. This helps manage customer/client expectations. While refusing to scoop/shave that ice cream may have been the easy way out, she left happier and more appreciative than she ever had before.
Lesson Learned: Be proactive and prepared, rather than reactive
In high school and through my freshman summer of college, I was a lifeguard for the local public pool. To date, this was one of the best jobs I’ve ever had (besides working at Bateman of course!). It wasn’t just sitting poolside and getting paid to get tan – it was everything that I learned about the real world from this one little pool. Everything from how to work with a diverse group of people to customer service skills to a hyperawareness of your surroundings to CPR and first aid.
The most significant thing I took away from all my summers was the importance of responsibility, being proactive and being prepared. While we were trained to handle emergencies, we worked hard to ensure that we didn’t have to use that training. There is a reason lifeguards tell you not to run on the deck or dive head first into shallow water. They aren’t trying to stop you from having fun – they are preventing you from needing a trip to the hospital. This is a lesson that I’ve applied to many areas of my life and career. It’s great and sometimes necessary to have an arsenal of crisis skills, but when you put the right preventative care (proactive care when looking at PR) in place, you should never have to use them.
Job: Follies Girl
Lesson Learned: Hard work leads to confidence
From the ages of 12-15, I spent my summers playing Disney princesses and other fairytale characters at the Pocono Playhouse Children’s Theater. The summer before I turned 14, I was recruited to dance in the ensemble of one of the professional or “Main Stage” productions called “The Will Rogers Follies.” Let’s be real here – this was definitely not Broadway, but it was incredibly intimidating. I was 13 years old dancing side-by-side with a cast of 20- to 30-somethings in my first paid gig.
Because Summer Stock Theater runs on a compressed schedule, a show that is usually rehearsed over the course of one to three months was jammed into one week of 8-10 hour rehearsals. Though I was obviously lacking experience I refused to be dismissed because of my age. While the cast took smoke breaks, I sought out the least-frightening non-smoker to review choreography with me. I asked questions even though my voice shook every time I opened my mouth. For one week, I ate, slept and breathed that show. When it came time for performance week, I knew every step, every costume change and every word to every song. No one in the audience would have been able to tell I was so young…if it weren’t for my braces.
In the end I walked away with $150 check for a week of eight performances and my first dancing job under my belt. Obviously, this was not my big break, and I have since changed career paths. This experience really instilled the fact that hard work directly leads to confidence and improved performance.
Job: Bag Boy/Courtesy Clerk
Lesson Learned: It isn’t always the glorious part of the job that gets you ahead
The day I turned sixteen (legal working age in Washington), my dad called his friend who managed the local grocery store, and the next day I had the honor of being named Quality Food Center’s newest bag boy. My object-sorting geometric savvy was honed in the days of my youth playing Game Boy Tetris on the bus ride to school, and served well in this noble occupation. I quickly garnered the moniker of “The Chosen One,” dazzling customers and coworkers alike with my lightning-fast grocery bagging abilities. Not once was an egg crushed nor a loaf smooshed. My talents even took me to the Snohomish County Regional Bag-Off, where I was only beaten by a gangly 20-something dude named Todd who had superhuman speed and sorting skills. At the time, I was convinced that it was due to his ability to somehow maintain a high-school wrestling state champion level of acne despite presumedly having long since dropped out of community college (I’m not bitter).
But it was not my dexterity of hand nor Tetris-honed sorting instincts that made me the Golden Boy of the Mukilteo Boulevard Quality Food Center. It was my unshakable determination to do whatever was asked in my quest for promotion into the hallowed ranks of the produce department. Those who worked in the produce department cut vegetables and ate fresh Washington apples all day – how could I not strive to join them with every fiber of my being? This determination was truly tested when I was asked to clean out the meat department backroom garbage cans, which hadn’t been given proper attention in over a year. Despite the otherworldly stench emanating from the pair of industrial-sized plastic vats of molding death, I overcame two bouts of vomit-inducing nausea (yes, I literally puked twice in an afternoon, at work, on a Tuesday afternoon in the August sun and continued the job) and went through two and a half large bottles of Drain-O. When I was done, the cans, which once could have been confused for those used by a haz-mat disposal team, could have been resold at Costco to an unfortunate suburban mom tasked with organizing her son’s soccer tournament, and she would have been none the wiser. Surmounting this monumental task was, I suspect, a completely unnecessary assignment, likely just hazing by the produce department. But I got the promotion and was the youngest-ever produce team member. Was it worth it? Absolutely. I love ‘dem Washington apples.