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by Nicole Weber | March 24, 2014


It’s another frigid day here on the East Coast, an uninspiring 31 degrees at the present moment, at what will hopefully be the tail end of a seemingly endless winter. But a hint of warm weather this past weekend plus the briefly heralded first day of spring last week has put summer on my brain. After all, it’s almost April. And this being Vault, any discussion of summer of course means a discussion about summer jobs!

Inspired by my colleague Phil Stott’s delightful memories of his best and worst jobs, I started thinking back on jobs I have held over the years, including summer jobs during high school, college and law school. Aside from babysitting and working in a clothing store, all of these jobs were desk jobs. I took various office internships because I thought they would build my resume and help me gain valuable skills and experience for whatever unspecified career I wanted to have in the future. And they did. My resume shaped up to be relatively straightforward, and solid enough assure a steady stream of more conventional summer and eventually full-time jobs. But if I could do it again, I might trade one of those 10-week desk jobs during my college years for a summer in the great outdoors. This is not to say that a traditional, prestigious summer internship with a top company won’t serve you well, but do remember that 86% of U.S. workers sit at a desk all day. Are you really ready to join us that quickly? 

The summers in between college years are a time to explore your career options, but they are also one of the few opportunities available to explore the world free of adult responsibility. Be sure to consult our Internship Reviews and Rankings, but also consider these alternative options for one last hurrah before you recede into office life forever:

National Park intern or hotel employee. The National Park Service offers a variety of internship opportunities for college and graduate students in fields such as geosciences research, consulting and historic preservation. Additionally, hotels operated by the National Parks are always seeking seasonal employees as servers, receptionists and line cooks. Employees spend their days off exploring the surrounding wilderness through hikes, rafting trips and camping excursions.  

Camp counselor. Obviously this requires a love of kids, and a lot of patience, as well as love and appreciation for everything summer. Perhaps you can return to your own summer camp, or ask your friends if their former summer camps would be good places to work. Camps need counselors for all sorts of activities from arts and crafts to soccer to archery. Choose your own adventure: sleep-away or day camp, theater or sports. Skills gained as a counselor will be valuable no matter what your future career path—what future employer would not value a sense of humor and leadership skills?

Winery intern. Curious about life as an enologist? If you are interested in agriculture, wine-making, or fine foods in general, consider contacting a winery at home or abroad to see what summer opportunities they have available. Many vineyards offer work-study positions. In exchange for your labor, they will offer room and board, and in the process you get to learn all about the growing, harvesting and processing that goes into making delicious wines.

Fitness instructor. Whether it’s an entrepreneurial endeavor or in collaboration with a local outfit, this is a great way to stay active and inspire others to do the same. Country clubs hire seasonal sailing, swimming, tennis and golf instructors, and you never know when your local gym might be in need of a dance teacher or running group leader. For the uncoordinated, or not-at-teaching-level types, there are front desk jobs available that might come with perks such as a discounted gym membership.

Lifeguard. Show off your toned muscles, contribute to the community’s safety, and get a tan in the process! Plus, meet other attractive people. Never again (except for maybe retirement, when you won’t be nearly as hot) will you have the opportunity to log 100% of your waking hours outside and on the water. 

And with that in mind, use the remaining chilly days wisely and plan your dream summer!