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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Summer Jobs

By Caitlin Green

Finding a job for a mere three months can be difficult. That's when many students find themselves taking any available work just to scrape together some cash, even if that means enduring the worst summer job...ever.

Food Service

The food service industry is a typical choice for summer work, but it also can prove to be one of the worst depending on what you're doing. Scooping ice cream might sound fun, but one of our survey respondents called it "menial and physically taxing." On the upside, Joe from Walsh College said his experience as a dishwasher helped him earn tuition for college as well as prepare him for his duty as the "kitchen police" in the Army. 


Retail is also a popular industry for high school and college students, though the pay is often nothing to write home about. Our survey respondents survived experience in all areas of the industry - with jobs in shoe and clothing stores, cleaning fish tanks, and bagging groceries. Management was corrupt, other employees were lazy, and as Alison from Trinity College remembers, "I was treated horribly, not by the store, but by the clients."

Hard Labor

Factory jobs were cited as monotonous, but Matthew from Duquesne University recalls his worst summer job as haying on a farm, "It was only one day...I don't think I could have made it through a second day."


Some apply for unique summer jobs only to find out too late that they were scams. One respondent from the University of Washington signed on to help a group in a charity venture - only to discover the unscrupulous nature of the group after some of her belongings were stolen. As for Vicki from Lake Superior State University, her summer job at a fish processing plant paid well, but three years later, she still can't get the smell of fish out of the clothes she wore on the job.     

Working a summer job can be a necessary evil. However, even after the worst experiences, most students admitted to learning a great deal from their grievances. They also better appreciated the value of education and understood that integrity, discipline, and a positive attitude are necessary to be a good employee. Above all, research the positions you're applying for. Nobody wants their clothes smelling like fish indefinitely.

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