How to Gain Life Experience (and Maybe a College-App Essay) From a Dead-End Summer Job

Get Accepted

Put Your Summer Job To Work for You

It's that time again. Time to go to work over the summer. And if you're like most high school students, your summer job is definitely not at the top of your dream jobs. Whether you're flipping greasy burgers, mopping floors, or wiping kids' snotty noses, dead-end summer jobs can seem like a major bummer. But don't despair. With a little shift in perspective, you can get valuable life experience from the worst of jobs. And with a little creative insight about your experience, you may be able to gain the fodder for a college-app essay.

Connect with your coworkers

Most dead-end summer jobs require you to perform tasks that people with more experience don't want to do. These jobs can be tedious, exhausting, or even downright disgusting. One way to deal with these situations and learn from them is to realize that you're not in it alone.

Bonding with others over your job can not only make it more enjoyable, but can also teach you a valuable lesson. In her online article about working at Burger King one summer in high school, Jul Bodeeb said she learned about the amazing bonding experience of laughter. "I learned rapidly that workers who laugh together work well together too." Take a moment to think about the people you're working with and what you've learned from them. While you won't be in your dead-end summer job forever, chances are you can walk away with a valuable life lesson that you've learned from working with your colleagues.

Learn to adapt to the workplace

Sometimes the part of the job that you dread can turn into the biggest opportunity to learn something. Nick Bamatter, 19, a sophomore at Highpoint University, spent one summer at a baseball camp working with a difficult boss. This manager was so disorganized that he "would get frustrated with things that he lost and put blame on the employees on occasion." In order to handle his difficult boss, Bamatter worked with his colleagues "to stay very organized so we could act as back-ups for our boss' lack of organization." Figuring out how to respond to and manage difficult personalities and situations can teach you how to adapt at work--a skill you can apply to every future job you have.

Look for lessons in the little things

Eighteen-year-old Alanna Langston recommends that people in dead-end summer jobs "look for lessons in the small things." Langston, now an elementary education major at Southwestern Assemblies of God University, spent one high school summer working as a janitor at a church. Langston's job didn't challenge her intellectually: "I learned lots of vacuuming techniques," she said. "Ha ha." Even so, having a job gave her a taste of life as a working adult. "I learned how to deposit a check, and keep up with a bank account because I actually had a steady check to deposit." Having a real job for the first time is the perfect opportunity to learn how to be financially responsible.

Turning "dead-end" into "dead-right" on college app essays

So say you've learned several life lessons from your dead-end summer job--what now? How can that possibly help you write your college app essay? Well, here's the thing: College is preparing you to get a job, right? So the fact that you've held a job and learned from it puts you one step ahead of the game.

Because you've labeled a job "dead-end," it must be significant in some way for what it doesn't offer you. What has working this job revealed about you? Have you figured out that while you hate wiping noses that you still love working with kids? Or maybe that three months of janitorial work will drive you to succeed at whatever you do just so you never have to mop again. This is important information.

A recommendation on the Carleton College website indicates that when writing your college essay, you should concentrate on topics of true importance to you. "Don't be afraid to reveal yourself in your writing," the website indicates. "We want to know who you are and how you think." A dead-end summer job can reveal a lot about who you are and how it's shaped your character, so don't be afraid to share it. That's exactly what colleges are looking for.