lifeguard summer job
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Use summer jobs to help build your savings and provide rocket fuel for your career.

Maybe you will don an obscure mascot costume. Perhaps you'll wear the corporate polo while diligently working in an air-conditioned office. You might end up playing countless games of capture the flag from sunrise to sunset. You might end up leading ice-breakers and inspiring the next generations of students on your campus.

We’re talking about the summer job, folks, an incredible way to save money, jumpstart your career and indulge your passions.

Summer jobs aren’t just an aimless way to earn a few bucks and make your parents happy by getting out of the house. They’re an opportunity to get a jump on your long-term goals. Or at the very least, to immerse yourself in something new.

So we humbly ask you to consider the following three questions.

What are the best jobs for college students? What will you do with the money you earn? How do you apply this experience to the future?

We're sorry, but we have to be real with you. Despite what some people might say, the days of a summer job paying for the entirety of your college education have long ended. Typically, summer jobs afford an opportunity to build up sizable savings to spend during the Fall and Spring semesters. The Arbol team estimates the average college student needs $10,000 or more to cover out-of-pocket expenses each year they’re in school. So making $5,00-$6,000+ goes a long way to creating more financial freedom during the academic year.

First, you should aim to receive $15 to $30+ per hour.

Pay will fluctuate depending on the environment, demands, and costs related to the job. Pulling weeds all day, operating a forklift in a hot warehouse, installing new playground equipment, or other harder labor should mean more compensation compared to selling stuffed animals in an air conditioned gift shop.

Food/lodging, might translate to slightly lower pay, but that might also mean pursuing CPR and lifeguard certification, not to mention the potential stress of getting a rowdy cabin of pre-teens to sleep after a day of playing games, hiking, and sneaking extra desserts at dinner.

Quieter, stable, less pre-teen riddled environments would likely receive less compensation. Regardless, know your worth and advocate for yourself.

If anyone says, "we're paying you in experience," run away! Experience and insights are important (and we'll discuss that below), but education and labor needs to be properly compensated.

Here’s a breakdown of reasonable compensation for summer jobs as well as their pros/cons:

Internships (including everything from HR to finance, operations, marketing and more): $15+ per hour.

Pro: Experience and relationships that can be leveraged to position yourself for a job upon graduation.

Con: Relatively low rate of pay and high variability in quality of experience.

Summer Camps/On-Campus Experiences: $30+ per hour.

Pro: Well-paying and readily available jobs that can be fun for people with the right temperament. These experiences demonstrate management, training, coaching, teaching, and consistency.

Con: Must be comfortable working in a chaotic and understaffed environment. Often times, your core constituents are children. Schedules will likely be very rigid, which eliminate the ability to pursue anything other than job (many of these roles are "live-in" too and require the staff member to stay in a cabin, campus dorm room, etc.).

Field Work (Research, park maintenance, landscaping, construction, etc.): $20+ hour.

Pro: Well-paying but rigorous work that can be satisfying for people who enjoy physical labor. Can be a break from theoretical studies.

Con: Work can be extremely taxing from a physical perspective. Work site cultures may be difficult to navigate so experiences are highly variable depending on work environment.

Outside of those options, standard retail, food service or service industry jobs should offer approximately $15+ per hour, which could include tips, etc. Choose your work environment carefully – customer service can be exhausting, policies can be miserable, and the environments can be needlessly stressful. Environments with empowering management teams focused on operational expertise can teach you a lot about how to solve problems, manage, and serve customers.

Relevant experience is the single most important factor that hiring managers consider when they have an open position – more than the pedigree of your college, your GPA, or your extracurricular activities. So we suggest using the summer job to immerse yourself in professional experiences, which will help you learn the inner workings of those businesses and speak the distinct language of whatever industry you’re choosing.

Your summer jobs function as incredible professional icebreakers that lead to incredible career opportunities (the conversational icebreaker, not the “two truths and a lie” kind). If you love novelty shirts, this is a great opportunity to learn a little about screen printing and the proper amount of plastisol. If you loved a class on 19th century U.S. history and learned that the “Star, Spangled Banner” takes its melody from a drinking song, then sign up to work a summer job at Fort McHenry. These jobs provide you the social capital to walk into an interview and confidently reference your life experience and skills. You'll be able to explain how getting a cabin full of sugar-crashed preteens to hike safely down a mountain isn’t much different than managing a team through a complex project, or that you learned how to sell by convincing parents to buy “glow” items when your state park had fireworks displays.

Regardless of your summer job, make sure that it is useful: it pays well enough for you to save money, provides enough fulfillment and gives you the tools to enhance your early career.