In today's ever more competitive society and culture, it feels to me that in order to land an entry-level job you must have filled your time during college with a myriad of internships and impressive professional experiences. More and more it is discussed how entry-level positions even have requirements for previous experience and how these are limitations for recent college graduates trying to put their degrees to work for the first time in a full-time capacity.
A lot of students are finding the way to gain this previous experience is through internships that will catch eyes on a resume. Employers are liking this idea too, creating experiences out of internships that draw the crème de la crème of future employees who they can put to work doing the job of what should be a permanent full-time employee.
Heading into this summer, I was one of those students, looking for an internship that would stand out on a resume and provide me with learning experiences that would help me to develop professionally.
I spent time searching through job postings, writing cover letters, and continuously refreshing my email for a hopeful response in part because I wanted to, I wanted to be busy this summer, but also because I felt pressure from outside sources, my peers at school, parents, society as a whole that this is what I should be doing.
In the end after applying to 12 different opportunities, none of those worked out. Knowing that for my sanity's sake I needed to spend my summer doing something, I returned to scooping ice cream.
Initially, I was disappointed that this is what my summer had come to. I wondered why nobody had wanted me. However, as I have been scooping hundreds of ice cream cones it has dawned on me that the professional experience I am getting in this job is just as valuable as the experiences I would be getting in an internship if not better.
Here is why:
My job title is "Ice cream scooper," not ice cream scooper intern, not ice cream scooper in training. I am a full-fledged scooper who is expected to know all the responsibilities of my job and do them well. There is minimal training but once that is completed you're on your own, learning as you go. Scooping ice cream is an entry level job and therefore has the same expectations as one.
With an internship, there is someone who you can always go to with questions and who you are expected to report to. As an intern, it is like you are a shadow of the full-time employee you report to.
In interviews I, along with many people I imagine, stress communication as one of the most important details of being successful in a job. It is hugely important to be able to communicate your needs effectively and politely.
Try doing that with a co-worker when you have a line out the door and they are trying to figure out what to do with five pick up orders that have just come in and are searching for more flat top lids. It's hard to communicate well in these situations, yet you still have to do it, there is no avoiding it.
On a recent night where we were slammed, I had a realization that if I were working an office job I would never gotten the same experience of communication as what I get while scooping ice cream. I have figured out that for things to work out for the best, I need to slow down, take a moment with my co-worker, rather than just blabbering an incoherent answer to a question while I am also trying to serve a customer. Once I get into an office job I can apply those same lessons to my communication there.
It takes teamwork to make the dream work as they say, and working in a fast-paced environment will teach you that lesson. All co-workers depend on each other and work as a team.
We hope that someone will be there if we need to trade shifts. As a closer we hope that the person who opened the store will make sure we are stocked with enough cones for the evening rush and has made the ice cream cakes for the next day. As an opener, we hope the closers have cleaned up, and restocked the ice cream.
In a rush, it's all hands-on deck, no one should be slacking. After you finish with one customer you go find your next group to help or if you just need a breath from dealing directly with customers, make an UberEats order that has just come in.
When it comes to an office job, when there is a tight deadline for a project, I'll think back to the seemingly never ending lines at the ice cream shop and start moving quickly and working hard with my co-workers to ensure the project gets done, because we're all in this together.
In an office, a deadline takes the form of a date on a calendar. In an ice cream shop the deadline is the customer's satisfaction. The more daunting of the two? I would say a person's face turning from a smile to a frown is more intimidating than an ever-looming date.
Our shop trains us that we have seven seconds to make a good first impression and that is a pretty tight deadline to meet. Knowing this is enough motivation for me to give each customer the best experience and deliver a finished product of their liking in the most efficient time.
Hopefully, I can take this approach into a job after I graduate, meeting deadlines with efficiency and proficiency in delivering the best-finished product.
In a capitalist society dealing with the desire for goods and services, it feels like there is always some sort of customer service involved in whatever job you choose to take on. Not all jobs put you face to face with the customer though.
Scooping ice cream does. At a certain point when you think you have seen every curveball a customer could throw your way, another comes blazing at you and you have to greet it with a smile.
Nothing can be as straining as dealing with customer's hijinks but you eventually build up a certain level of tolerance and stamina to them that can make you withstand anything someone tries to pull on you.
The experience you gain serving ice cream to people can be transferred to dealing not just with customers but also to co-workers and other people in your life. You build up a shield against people's unnecessary pokes and are able to give them what you want without letting your frustrations boil to the surface.
So there you have it, just because what I am doing this summer isn't flashy or prestigious doesn't mean I am not getting anything besides a paycheck out of it. I am learning lessons and gaining experience from this job that will count towards the "two-three years of experience needed" for the entry level jobs I will be applying for when I graduate from college.