Deciding to be a lifeguard, whether for a summer job, first job, or if you just need the money, is no joke and you should start by having a fondness for water. You may think that sounds like a no-duh moment, but I've met a few people who didn't like water and thought lifeguarding would be for them. You're staring at it for large pieces of time, so you might as well enjoy it too.
These are a few of the main things to remember before making a final decision about becoming a lifeguard.
1. You are dealing with peoples' lives
I know it seems obvious, but you have to remember lifeguarding isn't just something you can slack off on. When it comes down it, you have to be prepared to act and do it correctly.
Your first rescue is a game changer. You will be changed by it and it's the first time everyone will see how you will act in a dire situation. After such an event, it's OK to not be OK for a bit; just remind yourself you did the best you could and think about what you can improve for the future.
2. Stay hydrated
Most lifeguard gigs are outside, so slumming it in the sun is going to make you want water quickly and often. Keeping yourself hydrated through fluids such as water is important. So is sunscreen, because going back to work with a burn is going to hurt badly. And don't forget lip balm — chapping is a common thing.
Working indoors, sunscreen may not be necessary, but the standing on the pool deck for a couple of hours makes the place feel like a sauna, and you're going to want to stay cool with that ice water you keep beside you.
3. You will have to interact with patrons
You won't be sitting on the phone for hours at a time. You're supposed to condense your conversations to only a few seconds, but that doesn't mean you can shrug them off whenever you don't feel like talking.
People are always willing to converse around the pool, and your facial expressions say a lot about how you will react when they try to ask you something. Try to keep a smile because you are the face of the pool, so even if you're not talking to them directly, your expression says it all.
4. Training is more extensive than most jobs
At most jobs, you train for a week or so and then you're good until you quit or get promoted. Some lifeguard jobs make you practice every other week, while most are monthly. Regardless, you have to be recertified annually.
Doing each step in the process is necessary and the key to a patron's survival — that's why forgetting can be detrimental and you practice scenarios.
5. Staying fit is necessary
No, we don't all need to look like the models that star on "Baywatch," but keeping fit is super important to maintaining a great work ethic as a lifeguard. Whether at a pool or the beach you have to be fit enough to carry another person to safety and out of the water.
Swimming, of course, is a great way to keep your body in shape, and adding extra weight to your exercise can imitate the action of having to haul someone else.
6. Keep focused
Another one that should be obvious: keeping your head in the game is harder said than done. Once it's hot and you've been staring at the same body of water for a length of time, lifeguarding can seem very boring, but in an instant, it can be the most stressful job.
That's why changing scanning patterns and keeping yourself moving without losing sight of patrons in the water is so important. When you're stuck doing the same things for hours you can zone out and not even realize it.
Rehearsing scenarios in your head is also a good way to keep you going and staying alert by knowing which patrons are more likely to need help than others. Lifeguarding is a tough gig, but it's also so rewarding. There's no summer job like it, so enjoy it while it lasts!