An Essay on My Summer Job

Summer Job

Regular Dog: $1.49. Jimmy’s Famous: $1.89. Twenty-five cents for cheese. Bologna’s out. Milkshake machine’s broken. Refill sweet tea.

As cashier at Jimmy’s Hot Dogs, I was everything but the cook. After day one, my hair stood straight and old southern ladies sympathetically asked oh honey, is it your first shift? I wanted to cry.

But, an hour before closing, Nondas, the cook, checked the register. He smiled and said “Luci Lou, you the best.” Stress forgotten, we danced around the kitchen in celebration, talking about his brothers in Greece, World Cup soccer, and grilled fish.

After that, I didn’t feel alone. I had Nondas. I had the regulars. And I had the southern ladies to back me up. Jimmy’s taught me to value the people that make a job worthwhile. To focus on the positive when there’s soccer to be watched and perfectly grilled fish to be eaten. (150 words)

Tip #1: Value content (information) over form (poetry).

Space is limited here, so make sure the reader understands what you’ve done and what you’ve learned. Notice how, in the example above, a lot of the content probably came from the first column of the BEABIES: (i.e., “What I did”).

Tip #2: Use active verbs to give a clear sense of what you’ve done

Check out the active verbs in the essay above: writing, delivering, editing, researching, re-writing, brainstorming, catching, polishing, leading, holding, knowing. 

Tip #3: Consider telling us in one good clear sentence what the activity meant to you.

Examples: “I’m the messenger who delivers news from different continents to the doorsteps of my community” and “I write for this joyous process of creation” and “One day I’ll look back, knowing that this is where I began to develop the scrutiny, precision and rigor necessary to become a writer.”

Okay, that’s three sentences. But notice how all three are different. (And if you’re gonna include three, they better be different.)

Tip #4. You can “show” some, but not too much.

Example from the first line: “VIOLENCE IN EGYPT ESCALATES. FINANCIAL CRISIS LEAVES EUROPE IN TURMOIL.”

And later: “Leading a heated after-school brainstorming session, watching my abstract thoughts materialize onscreen, holding the freshly printed articles in my hand…”

The first one grabs our attention; the second paints a clear and dynamic picture. Keep ‘em short!

This essay uses the montage approach and does not name a specific problem. If, however, you’re using the “Elon Musk” structure from above  and want to adapt it for the 150-word essay…

Tip #5: Consider starting your essay with the “problem.”

In fact, probably name the problem in the first sentence. Then, in the second sentence, say what you did about it. Why? Word count.

Tip #6: Don’t forget to include specific impact, even if it’s brief.

Read the ending again:

“I helped ease the work of the nurses and doctors, while delivering medicine and smiles to dozens of patients. I may not have directly saved any lives, but I’d like to think I helped.”

Tip #7: Write it long first, then cut it.

Both these students started with 250-300 word statements, then they trimmed ruthlessly. In my experience this tends to be easier than writing a very short version and then trying to figure out what to add.