Non-traditional summer jobs

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School’s out for the summer! Now what? While kicking up your feet and watching Netflix might sound pretty nice, the long lazy days of summer are actually the perfect opportunity to get a taste of the working world—and make that bank.

Sure, there are the traditional summer jobs like camp counsellor or lifeguard, but what about the weird non-traditional (and still legal, c’mon) ways we’ve all made a few bucks? From jewelry makers to buskers, to mascot extraordinaire and beyond, we talked to four Atlantic Canadians to find out what unusual tasks they did for a few extra bucks in the summer, how it worked out for them, and most importantly, did they save?

What was your unique summer job?

Gavin: I was an assistant chicken sexer.

Chrystiane: I was a cemetery groundskeeper when I was 16.

Amanda: I made clay for artists at a pottery studio.

Zach: I was a door-to-door knives salesman for an international company that had just set up a satellite office in my city.

What responsibilities did your role include?

Gavin: In the hatchery, there were large flats where eggs under heat lamps hatched into baby chicks. My job was to grab a flat, bring it over to station, and then dump an armful of chicks onto the conveyer belt. From there, the chicks were brought up to a smaller, circular belt where the chicken sexers worked. They would quickly check the wing feathers of the chicks to determine the gender of the bird.

Chrystiane: A lot of lawn mowing, weed whacking, and various other jobs in northern New Brunswick—like sorting product donations for charity grocery bingos.

Amanda: Getting covered in clay and all the ingredients that we made every Sunday with my best friend—different kinds of textures, depending on each particular artists’ need.

Zach: I was responsible for finding new clients who were willing to let me drive to their house and do a 45-minute demonstration about knives and kitchenware. This demonstration involved walking through the cutting-edge technology (pun intended), cutting a penny in half using our kitchen shears, and challenging the host to a carrot peeling competition using our peeler. At the end, I’d try to close the sale and convince them to call their friends to set up my next demonstration.

What did you use your pay cheques for?

Gavin: I earned one pay cheque. It was enough to buy Radiohead’s “OK Computer” and The Prodigy’s “Fat of the Land”—both of which had just come out. Still love them both!

Chrystiane: I was very focused on saving every penny I could for university.

Amanda: I used my pay cheques to pay for school. We were in our last year of high school and first year of university at the time. As a bonus, we also got to use the studio for our own work.

Zach: This was before my first year of my undergrad, so my pay cheques went straight to my tuition.

Did you like the job? Did you return for other summers?

Gavin: Nope! It was brutal.

Chrystiane: I did! It’s the only time in my life where I had something resembling a tan because of all the outdoor work. I do like variety though, so I later moved on to working in an ice cream shop, a museum, and then science labs.

Amanda: I loved it. I did pottery classes there as a kid and then stuck around to work open studio hours and make clay for a while.

Zach: The money was great at the beginning, but I was glad to be done since I had exhausted my client list. Our office had closed after a couple months, so I was unable to continue selling anyway.

What did you learn from this experience?

Gavin: It was pretty eye opening in terms of how we farm meat.

Chrystiane: An appreciation for hardworking volunteers in all our communities. I also overcame an irrational fear of spending time alone in a church basement and funeral parlour.

Amanda: A whole lot of hard work—it was my first job that wasn’t in retail or babysitting. It was a great experience to really have to dive in and get my hands dirty. Also, really interesting to understand (as someone who loved pottery), what went into the clay I was using—it’s a surprisingly scientific process.

Zach: I learned more about sales and direct marketing, and to be wary when applying to job postings with vague descriptions.

Anything else interesting you’d like to add?

Gavin: This whole thing happened while on vacation visiting family in Ontario. I was offered a chance to try a day at a family run poultry farm to get some spending money. This was a bit of a “hazing” in the family, and used as a character building exercise. I learned after the first day that some cousins didn’t last the full day, so I at least had that… but I was very happy not to have to try it again.

Chrystiane: I give myself extra points for enduring relentless blackflies and mosquitoes doing this job. I’ve never missed that!

Amanda: Nope!

Zach: By luck and luck alone, I happened to sell over $2,000 worth of knives to my mom’s friend in my first ten days. It bumped me up to a 25% commission bracket and put me in the top five salespeople in the country that week. I also still use the demo knives that I had to purchase, and they actually are very good.

Whether you’re sharpening knives or making clay this summer, be sure to tuck a few dollars away for back to school. This will help take pressure off you when you’re busy packing your bags to head to your new dorm.

Interested in learning more about budgeting? Download our free First Timer’s Guide to Budgeting or contact your local credit union.