Dave Kerpen | 11 Career Lessons From Your Summer Job
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11 Career Lessons From Your Summer Job

11 Career Lessons From Your Summer Job

“Dave, push me on the swings!”

“Dave, can I have another snack?”

“Dave, can we play kickball today please?”

My first job was in the summer of 1990. I was 14 years old, and I worked as a counselor in training at Nob Hill Day camp, with a group of 12 six-year-olds. That summer, I learned the values of patience, hard work, and listening, three traits I’ve carried with me for my entire career.

There’s a bounty of knowledge to be gained from young adults who possess the determination and dedication to work through the warmer months.

In order to provide more perspective on the subject, I asked several members of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) to share one thing they learned from their first summer job. The YEC is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. Here’s what they had to say:

1. Perspective Is Everything

Working as a stock boy in a beverage center taught me a lot. I looked around at the 40-somethings in the store and thought, “I want more than this.” There is pride in hard work. That said, I wanted to create something new, something that impacted people. Working hard jobs in High School taught me to be grateful for my opportunities. Perspective is everything. –

Mitch Gordon, CEO/ Co-Founder, Go Overseas


2. A Great Product Is Useless if It Doesn’t Address a Pain Point

I went door-to-door selling custom websites to local businesses for $100 in 1995. Seems like a great deal now, but back then, everyone from the dentist to the radio station said no because they didn’t understand why they needed a website. I learned that no matter how great your product, you need to focus on your customers’ pain points if you want to make a sale.

AJ Shankar, CEO, Everlaw


3. If You’re Going to Do Anything, It’s Worth Doing Well

I cleaned toilets and managed the facilities at a local yacht club in New York (by “managed” I mean “did all the work and had no direct reports”). My boss was an old Italian American Vietnam vet who got down on his hands and knees on multiple occasions to correct my work and show me how he wanted the job done. I learned that if you’re going to do any job, it’s worth doing it well.

Anthony Krumeich, Founder, Loom

4. Learning The Job Is Great, Learning The Business Is Better

I made my first summer job all about learning the business. Learning the business was for more interesting, rewarding and valuable. I was also tremendously more qualified to do my specific function, as I grew to really understand how my function made the business money.



5. Sell by Listening Better

My first job was as a perfume spritzer at the mall. Seriously. I had to talk to hundreds of people and got rejected by nearly as many. It was exhausting work, but I learned how to sell to all different types of people. The key was listening. The more I listened the better I sold. This set me up for being an entrepreneur, where listening to your customers is the most important thing you can do.

Zachary Johnson, CEO, Syndio

6. Confidence Is Esssential

My first summer internship provided great professional experience, with the strongest lesson being the importance of confidence. Being confident in your ideas and suggestions will result in your co-workers and bosses valuing your input the most. Beyond your ideas, confidence extends to the matter in which you carry yourself and how you interact with clients, co-workers, etc.

– Charles Bogoian, Co-Founder/COO, Kenai Sports, LLC

7. Place Value on All Relationships

When I did my first summer job at an ad agency my freshman summer, my mentality was not, “This is my summer job.” I thought of it as, “This is a place where I can make an impression and have a career-long relationship.” I did the best possible job I could and kept in touch with the head of the office by emailing him a note once a year. Seven years later, they are referring us big customers. –

Nanxi Liu, CEO, Enplug

8. Have Patience Under Pressure

As a hotel receptionist, every day presented a new issue. Oftentimes, the customer was right across the counter. I learned how to maintain patience and a positive attitude under pressure. –

Shalyn Dever, CEO, Chatter Buzz Media


9. Handle Conflict With Calm

There are few places where tempers run higher than at a youth baseball game. My first summer job when I was a teenager was umpiring baseball at the third- and fourth-grade level. I loved every part of it. Dealing with the coaches, players and parents was a great lesson in managing conflict and keeping a cool head when things got heated. –

Andrew Cross, Partner, Walker Sands Communications

10. No Job Is Too Small

I bagged groceries at a local grocery store. While many of other employees found ways to simply pass the time and collect a paycheck, I found out that by turning the mundane tasks into a game (how fast could I do it? how few bags could I use?). Not only did this make the job more enjoyable, it also led to a philosophy of taking on any task, no matter how small, with enthusiasm. –

Tommy Golczynski, Managing Partner, Assured Flow Solutions, LLC

11. Work Smarter Rather Than Harder

Working smarter is more effective than working harder. I learned to always challenge processes. Just because “it has always been done that way,” doesn’t mean it is the best way. I do my best to continue to incorporate this idea in all aspects of my life.


Matt Telmanik, President, CCS Construction Staffing

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