Edmond certified public accountant Mike Bell still cringes when he remembers the hard lesson he learned decades ago as a teenager working a summer job in the Hertz Corp. mail room.
Bell dated one Friday’s incoming mail with a Saturday date, forcing all mail room employees to work two days worth of mail on Friday so that the company wouldn’t have to pay overtime for employees to work on Saturday.
“One of their control procedures was to make sure they worked through all the mail on the same day as the date on the envelope,” Bell remembers. “But no one bothered to tell me — and I didn’t double-check with anyone — that on Friday you were to put Monday’s date on the envelope.”
Tim Berney, president of VI Marketing and Branding, said he, through numerous summer jobs, learned responsibility, and valuable selling and customer service skills.
The summer between graduating high school and starting college, Berney sold men’s clothing full time at Orbach’s and waited tables several nights a week at Pumps restaurant.
“I started mowing yards at 10, had a paper route at 12 and worked at Baskin-Robbins at 13,” Berney said. “Everyone was working at 16.”
Meanwhile, none of Berney’s three sons, ages 21, 18 and 15, or few of their friends have held full-time summer jobs, he said. This summer, his eldest is working as a math tutor and his 18-year-old is employed at a shoe store at Quail Springs. Both are part-time jobs.
According to the latest data from the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission, 32,084 19- to 21-year-old workers, and 14,987 14- to 18-year-old workers, were employed in greater Oklahoma City in the second quarter of last year. In the third quarter of 2012, those totals were 32,643 and 16,983, respectively.
The most recent strongest summer for young adults was 2008 when third-quarter employment was 33,296 for 19- to 21-year-olds and 21,269 for younger teens.
Bettye Taylor, managing director with the Oklahoma City Express Employment Professionals Specialized Recruiting Group, said she’s seen an uptick this year in summer internships with energy, banking and accounting firms.
More than one energy company in the past few months has brought engineering students into the specialized areas, such as reservoir or drilling, they’re pursuing, Taylor said.
“This allows an intern to work in the actual role versus simply learning how an oil company runs,” she said.
Along with the lesson of detail he learned through the Hertz debacle, Mike Bell learned not to make unconfirmed promises when he, working for the telephone company, assured a homeowner that the liquid plastic, with which he was spraying telephone lines to keep water out, wouldn’t hurt her rose bush.
“I naively assumed there’d been some kind of pretesting of the product, but by the time I returned to the shop at the end of the day that poor woman had already dug up her dead rose bush, driven to the shop, and deposited it on the desk of my supervisor,” he said. “I felt horrible.”
On the telephone job and another selling books door-to-door in Minnesota and Indiana, Bell said he learned to “always deal with the big dog problems first.”
A Saint Bernard, he said, once jumped up and bit down on a strap of his harness, which dangled in the dog’s backyard, while a Great Dane once “inspected” the front seat of his car after he had left the windows down.
Lessons learned on the job
Other area professionals say they also learned important lessons on summer jobs. Here is a sampling:
Drew Edmondson, shareholder at GableGotwals law firm: “The summer between my sophomore and junior years at Northeastern, I worked for Majority Leader Carl Albert in Washington. My duties involved responding to constituent mail, meeting and sometimes guiding visitors from Oklahoma, and a limited amount of speech writing and issues research. That experience reinforced the ideal that no matter how high one might travel in political power, the important issues were the problems of your constituents.”
Will Merrick, executive vice president of Foundation Management Inc.: “I spent every summer in college at the Jimmie Austin OU Golf Course as cart boy, bathroom cleaner, range picker upper and whatever else needed to be done. My boss, Richard Buchanan, showed me the value of hard work and not giving up. He also made me laugh. One day he called me in to my office and told me I was getting a raise, and then he asked me to go hang the new ‘increase in minimum wage’ poster in the work room. After four years of work, I thought I was going to have an easy last day. Instead, he asked me to clean the bathrooms out on the course. I did it with a smile.”
Richard Kostboth, a certified public accountant at Arledge and Associates in Edmond: “Between my junior and senior years in college, I worked for a steam cleaner manufacturer in Vermillion, S.D., where I went to college. I did a little bit of everything in the office, including checking shipments before they went out, invoicing, etc. Later that summer, (I) worked a month running an alfalfa chopper. I worked 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. one week and the next week, 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. In the office job, I learned how not to manage people. At the alfalfa plant, I learned how to stay awake on a tractor for 12 hours, which comes in handy during tax season.”