Do a little research
Before you take a job, research and find out as much as you can about where you’re going to work. The summer before university, I got a very well-paid job teaching English to kindergarten and primary school students at a study centre.
Only after I got there did I find out that the parents really value having a native English teacher, so I had to pretend I couldn’t speak Cantonese. Whenever a parent would ask me questions, the secretary would translate the conversation. I did my best to look clueless, even though I understood perfectly. If a company does something weird like that, it’s best if you find out in advance.
What’s better than getting paid to snack on pizza, sweets and popcorn, while you watch Disney movies? The best part is, the younger they are, the earlier they go to bed! If you have younger siblings, then you’ve already got a built-in client base. Next time your baby sister wants to go to her friend’s house, offer to take her, and offer your babysitting skills to her parents at the same time. You can even print some babysitting name cards so they can get in touch.
Ride ’em, Cowgirl!
Every summer in secondary school I worked at a Wild-West theme park called “Six Gun City”. We had to dress as cowboys, which wasn’t so bad because it just meant wearing jeans with a plaid shirt, cowboy boots and hats. I worked in the gift shop and the “saloon”, which was a lonely old building that served slushies and popcorn. Cleaning that popcorn machine at the end of each day was the worst thing I’ve ever had to do. Trust me, you do NOT want to know what goes onto that popcorn you eat at the cinema. It’s gross. Really gross.
But working in service positions makes you have more sympathy for other people in those positions. Your day of fun at Ocean Park wouldn’t happen without people who put in long hours and have a lot of cleaning up to do after you leave.
Drama of documentaries
I interned for the production company Asia Pacific Vision during the spring/summer semester of my masters in journalism. It was tough balancing the internship work with full-time studies, but APV was producing Inside: The Hong Kong Rugby Sevens, a documentary for RTHK and National Geographic.
The experience of learning how to plan, execute and produce a documentary was incredible. Going to the Sevens for free, surrounded by hunky rugby players, didn’t hurt either.
I’ll see you in court … or not
The summer before I finished university, I had both my worst and best summer jobs. I was studying law, so arranged a two-week internship at a small law firm in England. I had a huge range of very hands-on experiences, from preparing bundles for court, to actually sitting in on a case and helping the solicitor support the barrister. But it was “the worst” in that it made em realise that I had no passion at all for the work. I could see why it was interesting and it was enjoying enough, but at the end of the fortnight, I had no desire to ever repeat it. (I did have to get through another year of studies, though … )
Almost immediately after, I came home to Hong Kong, where I spent six weeks at an educational publishing company. I did everything from overseeing photo shoots and proofreading, to briefing authors and even copy editing. It reignited the passion I’d always had for words, and reminded me what I loved about my degree – the clever use of language to solve problems. At the end of the summer, I’d been offered a job after I graduated, and I’ve been editing ever since! Moral of the story: every job can teach you a lot about yourself, and what you need from a job!
Tutoring was torturous
The only summer job I ever did was tutoring for a Form Three student who had ADHD. We had to do maths nine hours a day for five days, which equals 45 hours of absolute torture for the both of us. We were working on congruent triangles and he could never remember a single theorem. I had just come back from a semester of teaching on the mainland and was used to super obedient students, but he was restless, and he didn’t even seem to be trying. He even got ink on my new peach trousers.
“Why don’t you concentrate?” I demanded.
“These things are useless. I’m going to forget it in a couple of years anyway,” he replied.
“Come on, WORK! I’m sitting here going through all this with you, right?”
“You’re just doing it for money.”
Which, I reflected sadly, was quite true.
But we also had some fun moments. We had lunch and played games, and I became his first ever Facebook friend. We still keep in touch!
Fun in the sun
My best summer job lasted almost three years, because I was working at the beach resort Club Med. Sure I had to ALWAYS be smiling and helpful to guests, but I got to meet people from all around the world, learn flying trapeze and scuba diving, and gorge myself three times a day at a delicious buffet of Mexican food and international gourmet offerings. Best of all, I was never, ever cold – that’s a really big deal for a Canadian. Hey, I can handle smiling for that.
A killer holiday job
Okay, well, I got a job in a very beautiful hotel, at the Valley of 1,000 Hills, in KwaZulu Natal. I was there just generally to help out. That’s when I discovered my killer instincts... for plants. I woke up one morning and decided to water all the plants. Once I had finished I was so pleased that I had remembered that I walked around with a stupid grin on my face. Only, I had overwatered them, and all the plant pots started to leak all over the hotel’s lovely and antique floors. I spent the rest of the day and well into the night, running from one pot to another with towels, trying to dry the floors. I think several of the plants died from my loving care. I never did have green fingers.