Good job, bad job

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April 28, 2009

5:17 AM

After months of frantic studying, memorization and exhaustion, it’s almost over — the end is near. The shaking jitters of a caffeine addiction, once a badge of intellectual honor, have almost worn off, and your sleep-deprived eyes turn skyward to the unfamiliar summer sun. In an Alighieri-esque fashion, you’ve ascended from academic hell to stroll, carefree, through the Elysium fields of relaxation. There’s only one thing standing in your way: You’re flat broke. And sadly, your esoteric Dante’s “Inferno” references will do nothing for you in the world of retail. You refuse to spend yet another summer mowing lawns for your arthritic neighbor who thinks her psychotic pit bull, charmingly dubbed Princess, is never more adorable than when chasing you, maniacally, across the lawn. Repressing a shudder as you think of her gnarled hands begrudgingly forking over your meager payment, you scan the classifieds for other prospects.

With most internship deadlines passed and the new, daunting task of paying for food sans Flex Points ahead, many students are gritting their teeth, preparing to fling themselves onto the double-edged sword of the summer job. The recent economic crisis makes this display of self-sacrifice all the more harrowing, as more and more businesses are unceremoniously removing the “help wanted” signs from their storefronts.

In this economic climate, many applicants have had to re-evaluate their expectations for summer employment. As the days pass, the hunt for the perfect job quickly turns into a search for a good job, finally devolving into a desperate grapple to land any job. However, even in the face of dwindling opportunities, Williamsburg still offers a few summer possibilities that might put a dent in next fall’s tuition — or, at the very least, pay for your books.

For quick cash, many turn to the typical college student standby: waiting tables. While the hourly wage — often only a measly $3 or so — may make serving tables seem like little more than legalized slavery, the money that waiters make in tips more than makes up for the scant salary. Depending on the restaurant’s menu prices, waiters stand to earn more in a night than cashiers earn in a week.

While money is definitely a motivating factor for students searching for summer employment, some summer hopefuls aren’t quite ready to sacrifice their social lives in exchange for fiscal responsibility. In an effort to strike a balance between economics and enjoyment, many students turn to lifeguarding.

“I did enjoy being out in the sun all summer,” Matthew Norwood ’11 said of his experience at Williamsburg’s own Water Country USA, “though my tan had a noticeable whistle-shaped pale spot in the middle of my chest.” Lifeguarding offers one a chance to work outdoors with decent pay — Water Country and Kingsmill Resort and Spa currently offer $8.75 an hour for their summer associates — and, maybe, even the opportunity for a little excitement in the form of heroic rescue.

Nevertheless, as with any job, there is an occupational hazard of occasional bouts of boredom. “Watching people go in circles in the water gets boring after a while,” Norwood said. “We passed time by making fun of fat guests.”

But let’s say you have no options. The clock’s ticking and everywhere you turn you’re greeted with the dreaded cry of, “Thank you for your interest, but…” With nowhere left to go, you find yourself faced with the dreaded prospect of the fast food industry. It’s true that working in food service is hardly anyone’s dream job. However, depending on the fast-food restaurant, there may be a few untapped opportunities that most would overlook. “We’re always looking for people with marketing skills,” Williamsburg Chik-fil-A operator Wrenn Holland said. “If you’re interested in [being a] manager then… we can create a situation and apply what you’re learning [in college].”

Working in fast food isn’t all about flipping burgers and refilling the ketchup dispensers.

“As a Chik-fil-A operator, the most important thing [I] can do is to give [workers] the same opportunity that I have,” Holland said. “We recruit people, business majors … and teach them how to run a business for themselves. [It’s] very different from the traditional fast food restaurant.”

Although the search for summer jobs is undoubtedly treacherous, there are opportunities available for the diligent applicant. Whether you find your little slice of heaven or your own personal hell, at least you’re not spending your time on calculations or the Canterbury Tales. And with that silver lining in mind, if worse comes to worst, we hear Hardee’s is looking for a biscuit maker.

**Job feature**

**Resume Builder – Bruton Parish**
Job: Paid Intern
Pay: $9.05
__Interns will assist in digital scanning of images, photographic lab work, photo printing and reproduction. Geared towards students with audio-visual, photographic, or archive backgrounds.

**Resume Breaker – Hardee’s**
Job: Biscuit Maker
Pay: Minimum Wage
__Seriously, you’re a freaking biscuit maker. You make biscuits. All day, every day. This is an actual job at Hardee’s. Seriously people, we don’t make this stuff up.__

**Easiest BS Job – Kingsmill**
Job: Lifeguard
Pay: $8.75
__Lifeguards must be CPR certified. Duties include watching old people swim and, if you’re lucky, occasionally handing a flotation device to the charming tot that just pissed in the pool.__

**Hardest Job Requirements – Busch Gardens**
Job: Performer
Pay: $12.71
__Requires private or formal dance instruction for a minimum of two years. Must perform four to 10 shows a day for up to 40 hours a week, including rehearsals.__

**Best Paying – Williamsburg Lodge**
Job: Front Desk Attendant
Pay: $10.97
__Front Desk Attendants are expected to assist guests, train new employees, and maintain hospitality and service. Some front desk or guest relations experience is preferred.__

**Worst Paying (above minimum wage) – Subway**
Job: Sandwich Artist
Pay: $7
__In the immortal words of a disgruntled Subway employee: “I started working here nine months ago at $7 an hour. I still make $7 an hour.”__

**Best Perks – Water Country USA**
Job: Lifeguard
Pay: $8.75
__You may take the job to save people from drowning, but you’ll keep the job for the 12 guest passes you get to hand out to friends and family, for a price of course.__

**Worst Perks – The Trellis**
Job: Server
Pay: $2.13 + tips
__Employees are required to spend about $100 in uniform and for food discounts you only get a 50% discount on the least popular lunch items. Talk about job satisfaction.__

**Best Conditions – Barnes & Noble**
Job: Sales Clerk
Pay: Not Disclosed
__The Soft Jazz playing in the background, the subtle aroma from the convenient Starbucks, and the peaceful quiet of a library setting. To think, some people are camp counselors.__

**Worst Conditions – Colonial Williamsburg**
Job: Colonial Reenactor
Pay: Not Disclosed
__Aside from the screaming kids and the cobblestone streets caked in horse crap, there’s always the possibility of being cast as a slave. Nothing says fun in the sun like wool in August.__

**Most ‘Exciting’ – Williamsburg Woodlands**
Job: Child Activities Assistant
Pay: Up to $8.66
__Supervise groups of 25-50 children ages six to 12 for hours on end. Seeking those with ability to “work and deal with children.” Applicants are responsible for providing their own aspirin.__

**Least Exciting – Busch Gardens**
Job: Safety Officer
Pay: Minimum Wage
__Regulate height for guests riding the rollercoasters. Your job is so boring that most amusement parks have replaced you with signs. Seriously, a piece of cardboard is just as qualified to do your job.__

__Online only content__
Students share horror stories, personal anecdotes from past summer jobs.

Elizabeth Ferris ’11

__When I was younger I worked at this wild life refuge. I wasn’t allowed to do very much because I wasn’t 18 and there’s a liability if you work with animals. There was this really cute guy who worked there. He was probably like 17 and at the time I was around 13 or 14. He so wasn’t interested. We were never scheduled to work at the same areas together. One time we got assigned to work on the same thing. We were supposed to be changing the water for the birds in the fledgling cage, a sort of halfway house for birds who don’t know how to fly yet. Well there are hundreds of birds in this little cage. It was a shit tsunami. You couldn’t even go in there without getting shat on. I never signed up to do the shift again even though he was really cute. In retrospect he probably had some DUI offense and he was being made to work there as part of his probation. At the time I just thought oh my gosh, there’s this cute guy and he loves animals.__

Casey Sears ’11

__During my senior year of high school I managed to fall into the Gap. For a lack of better employment I stayed with it through summer breaks and holidays. I’ve always been interested in fashion, but working retail just made me sad to watch people handing over their last few dollars in exchange for boxy sweaters and (not so) special edition jeans. I always felt conflicted when I had to push the credit cards on nice, unsuspecting people. I reward the people who make eight plus hours of perfect folding sweaty t-shirts with bad credit? Awesome. For the not-so-nice customers I reserved my saccharine sales voice. If you can’t imagine it, take two sugar cubes, an energy drink, the soul of one hummingbird, and a mouth full of cavities. Mix, and spew out the contents with dollar signs in your eyes. Even more than I hated pushing milquetoast wares on strangers, I hated that I wouldn’t quit. Apparently I like having an income more than I like having morals. Go figure.__

Kristen Verge ’11

__The summer between my junior and senior year of high school I worked as a dental assistant. It seemed like a better job than working as a farmhand or waitress like most high school kids did in my very rural town. I had to wear white scrubs, even though I was just a glorified secretary, and I feel like I spent most of my paychecks in search of a pair of underwear that you couldn’t see through my translucently white pants. My co-workers, though all over the age of fifty, were usually pleasant to work with, and I have little to complain about save my boss — he was so cheap that he made us save and reuse paper towels and latex gloves. One of my biggest jobs was peeling off stamps from envelopes so we could re-stick them on our statements. It was his so-called frugality and the consequent filthiness of the place that prompted me to get out of there before the summer ended.__

Cody Keller ’10

__My coworkers and I at Advance Auto Parts became masters at entertaining ourselves during the inevitable slow periods that would often follow a mad rush of crazed customers. One of my favorite memories of what happens when left to our own devices was when my coworker Kevin asked “would you mind if I shrink wrapped you?” Of course, my immediate reaction was an enthusiastic “Yes.” I stood there in the back of our store holding the beginning end of the wrap with both arms down by my side while Kevin ran around me cinching the slack that would allow me to move freely. We both tested out my range of movement, which wasn’t much more than tiny hops and turning my head. Suddenly, Kevin decided that tackling me would be a great idea. Fortunately, or maybe unfortunately, there was a cart directly behind me that seemed to be the perfect size for my helpless body to land on. I laid there defenseless as Kevin pushed me around the treacherous back room full of chemicals and sharp protrusions, screaming until we finally took a turn a little too sharp and a little too fast and the ride came to an abrupt halt as the cart flipped and I took flight. Miraculously, my crash landing took place on a pile of cardboard boxes that broke my fall and I came out unharmed just in time to wait on the next customer.__

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