Over the past five summers, I have worked at Sundae School Ice Cream Parlor in Dennisport, Massachusetts. Even though I can’t actually eat dairy, I will openly brag to anyone that asks (or does not ask) that Sundae School was voted the number one ice cream parlor on the cape last year and was ranked fifth in the nation. I once had a customer come in and tell me she had had a dream about eating our Raz-Oreo ice cream because it’s that good.
Even though having a summer job might not seem like the flashiest thing to add to a resume, I’ve come to realize that it can still be a really worthwhile experience. While internships do provide invaluable opportunities to explore a particular field, build professional skills, and create networks, it’s important to remember that they are not the only way to add value to your career development.
Since my first summer I’ve worked my way up from layman scooper to manager. Throughout my time working there, I’ve developed leadership and communication skills that I can transfer to future careers.
As a manager, I was in charge of training new scoopers. The process of training required me to reflect on my own experience and figure out the best way to communicate this compilation of skills and knowledge to other people. Training isn’t always a straight path; it requires a lot of repetition, clarity, demonstration, and patience. However, by helping new scoopers develop methods to remember large or complicated orders, stay calm on busy nights, or become familiar with the thought process of customers, I felt I was able to contribute to maintaining the high standards of consistency and excellent customer service that is expected of Sundae School.
My leadership responsibilities extended to the customers as well. I quickly found out that being a manager doesn’t mean knowing the answer to everything. Instead, it means being able to react to any situation and use problem solving skills to figure out solutions. You can’t really prepare in advance for a power outage mid-shift or a customer announcing that their child is actively urinating on the ground. Through dealing with situations like these, I’ve developed a systematic and collected process to problem solving.
One of the most important things I learned from my time at Sundae School is the major role communication plays in creating a successful work environment. In any work setting, the way that you present yourself is going to influence how others perceive you. Being polite will gain you major points, but being polite and personable is a skill that will get you far. In order to maintain its reputation as one of the top rated tourist experiences in Dennisport, Sundae School relies on our ability to represent the store in a professional and affable manner. I can’t emphasize enough how much more enjoyable an interaction can be when both sides put effort into communication. I still laugh every time I think of the old man who saw that his total was $12.34 and said, “Ah, that was a good year!”
I guess what it all boils down to is this: no matter what form your work experience takes, you can still use it as an opportunity to build career skills. And, most importantly, eat more ice cream.