If you had a rubbish summer, it’s your fault for working in a dead-end job

Three months of flipping burgers will never make you more employable


Over summer, many of us will have spent the three months working in a menial retail or waitering job to earn a few quid. It’s just what’s done – work a bit, make some money and blow it all at the start of next term. But it’s time to wake up and realise this is a terrible way to spend the one proper holiday of the year, motivated by a worrying devotion to short term luxuries and with no consideration for the bigger picture.

You justify the hours you spend flipping burgers as “real world experience” which will give you “employer-valued skills”. You keep lying to yourself in a vain effort to explain your mind-numbingly dull job, because even you’re not quite convinced the pennies you’re making are worth it.

Working for these companies is enabling them to exploit us. We give up our summer and they get virtually free labour while we get nothing in return – your three months at Topman won’t exactly scream “hire me” on your grad job application. We need to realise there are better ways to spend our time and energy. For one thing, go and get some experience in the career you actually want to work in.

If this is where you work, you're not learning anything

If this is where you work, you’re not learning anything

Doing this may mean sacrificing a few hundred pounds now, but it’ll pay itself back tenfold when you’re the most employable job candidate in a few years time. Plus at least it’ll be interesting, and you’ll learn something valuable – more than can be said about most summer jobs.

You don’t apply for these sorts of gigs because you’re scared of failure – and that’s understandable. Why put in the time and effort for a job which actually means something, thereby running the risk of messing it up, when you can just keep slaving away at a humdrum task you’re vaguely good at?

But there’s a simple truth to realise: you’re probably better than most of the people working out there. You’re fairly likely to be talented and a shade intelligent: you’re at uni after all. There’s no reason you can’t be as good as a twenty-something grad who is learning on the job. So just go for it.

Or, better yet, refuse to conform to our 21st century work-until-you-die lifestyle. You’re young, you’re free and you have no commitments. For once in your damn life, take a break and relax. Society wants us to be spending every waking moment preparing for retirement, but it’s better to enjoy life while you still can but there’s nothing wrong with not working. Just because all your friends get some sick satisfaction out of bragging about how hard their jobs are doesn’t mean you need to join in.

Go abroad and see the world if you don’t know what else to do. It’ll cost you, but you’ll become a better person for it. The “found myself” gap year is a bit of a cliché, but there’s some truth to it. And I guarantee the people who spent this summer travelling won’t be the ones scrapping for any grad scheme they can get.

Next summer, when your mates ask if you fancy a night out, don’t be the bore who says “nah, I’ve got to wake up early to cycle to Carphone Warehouse”. You’re just one step away from filling in a mortgage application and looking at how your pension’s doing.

Live your life to the fullest instead. If you need the money to survive, then fair enough. But do you really need a bit of extra cash to squander on booze and a new iPhone? Or is your time better spent looking after yourself and chilling out? I think that question’s even easier to answer than the ones on your Primark application form.