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Milkshakes for breakfast was not exactly a career path. But being a lifeguard at my local water park was….

Image of a lifeguard facing a boy going into the water

Milkshakes for breakfast was not exactly a career path. But being a lifeguard at my local water park was….

Written by Jen Martin 1/15/2020

I was fourteen and my mom said: “get a job.”

My mother began teaching me work ethic as young as I learned to read. “See that sign, Jen, can you read it? It says, ‘Now Hiring.’” My first job was babysitting.  I was 14 years old and would get off the bus and walk two houses down to watch a couple of girls who were in elementary school. It was easy, we sang Britney Spears songs and made up dances. It paid, was close to home, and only lasted a few hours each day.

Babysitting wasn’t about making money, it was about satisfying my work ethic requirement at home. It probably builds character or something. But what does a fourteen-year-old know about character? And what does she care? It’s a tough age. You know you’re not a child anymore when you can be trusted to watch the neighbor’s kids for money. Yet you feel as if you are perfect for the gig since you are a kid yourself. Irony, another concept lost on most fourteen-year-olds. So there I was, employed. Not doing something I was really enjoying. No passion. Just a job for some cash because my mom taught me to read ‘help wanted’ ads.

In hindsight, it was a good thing that she did. A few months later, I was skiing on the weekends with my friends and read a “help wanted” ad for ski school instructors. I had taken a few years of lessons with the ski school, loved it, and thought I could be a great addition. I applied and was hired to show up. But when the mother of the kids I was watching was late and I didn’t make it to the ski hill in time.

This was my real first job experience, in 9th grade as a fourteen-year-old. It wasn’t pretty. I probably cried. I know I wondered why I was somewhere that I didn’t really want to be when I had the chance to work at a job that I knew I was passionate about, doing something I loved.

This experience set me up for success.  Learning to use what you are passionate about to achieve goals and setting my sights on going to work every day, not just for a paycheck but for a life I can be proud of was the dream.

A shocking 70% of employed Americans report being unhappy at work.

-Ken Coleman, The Proximity Principle.

Winter of 2000 came and went. Summer of 2001 passed me by. We moved. I started a new school. I joined the swim team in August to start making friends before classes began. I had been on swim teams since 4th grade. It was something else I was good at, because I didn’t have to sweat to be athletic. Swimming was something I enjoyed doing and something I was working hard at to do better. I wasn’t the best or the most competitive, but I was passionate. I won heats, I lost some too. I made friends and it set me up for my next opportunity to read “Help Wanted” and feel a connection like I did at the ski resort.

“Water Safari is hiring lifeguards,” I read on a flyer in the locker room during my sophomore year. I had just taken a lifeguard training course at the high school. I had made friends with girls and guys on the swim team and one of them recommended that I apply to the job. The job aligned me with like-minded people and the bonding us for life began. I applied, I got the job and I began to look forward to summer. Best decision of my life. Easy. I learned responsibility like no one has ever been able to teach. I was happy to take on other positions delivering pizza’s to Water’s Edge Inn, Customer Service at the Campground, I was even on the Grounds Crew (the pay was so good!) But when I lifeguarded, I kept track of my “saves” with a tally board on my bedroom wall. Lives were in my hands. I was so proud and passionate. When the summer ended I kept rising at other pools where I worked; supervisor, manager, Director of Aquatics!

‘Milkshakes for breakfast was not exactly a career path…’ but at 15 years old Director of Aquatics was where I was heading.

I attribute my confidence, my expertise, and my passion, to my time lifeguarding for Water Safari. I was 100% set up for success.

As they say, hindsight is 20/20 and I believe teens have the largest disadvantage. Where they are in life, up to this point, has little to do with their own decisions and more about how they were influenced growing up. They have been babies and children, guided tenderly by their parents, ideally. However once teenagers find themselves old enough to take on enough responsibility to get a job, they are expected to understand the trajectory…that what they do for the next 14 years of their life is going to shape what the next 70 years could look like. As a parent, I am constantly telling my kids that my tough decisions and above-average expectations are setting them up to achieve success in whatever they decide is worth their while. Being old enough to work is going to be exciting for them. They will get to have choices in what they do and they know it. It’s not going to be forced on them to take a job because they have to pay bills. They are going to WANT to work because they are going to get to do something they love. And they know it. It’s how this tender parent has brought them up! Telling them to try everything, stick with what they love even if it’s hard, or they aren’t the best.

For me, by 15 I had continuous work experience, lifeguarding and teaching snowboarding instructor (I got another job, that I kept at the ski resort where I still work today!). I had babysat one single time after that to help a friend and felt validated that it wasn’t for me. I had identified what made me tick, swimming in the summer, and snowboarding in the winter and I was determined to make my passions work for me.

Are you passionate about anything? Not sure? What would you rather be doing right now?

Deciding to work at Water Safari was a great decision and it was all mine. It took a bit of convincing and logistics for my parents to get on board. But I wanted it. I wanted to put on a bathing suit every day and stand in the sun and laugh with people enjoying what might be the best day of their summer, year, or maybe life. You just never know.

Interested in exploring what Water Safari Resort has to offer? View job benefits, descriptions, and fill out your application! Seasonal and year-round opportunities available!

 

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