Rules of Conduct

Rules of Conduct

By Lisa Van De Ven

Summer’s here and for some that might mean poolside parties and trips to the beach. For others, it means something else entirely: a chance to pick up a few pay cheques and save some extra cash. Slaving the summer away might seem like a waste of the warm weather, but it could also prove more useful than the pay alone. In fact, the skills you pick up now will take you through whatever jobs might follow, and making the right impression could even help kick-start your future career.

So how do you make the most of your summer job experience? According to Keisha Lynch, who works for the YMCA’s Employment and Community Service summer job services team, it all starts with learning a few elementals in workplace etiquette. Lynch helps more than 1,000 youth across the Greater Toronto Area find, and get the most out of, summer jobs every year. Putting your best foot forward in the workplace, she says, involves everything from what you wear to how you act while on the clock.

First Steps

While potential employers won’t expect you to come into an interview knowing everything, it does help to be keen and well informed, adds Joe Cardillo, national sales manager for Vector Marketing Canada. Vector hires approximately 4,000 to 5,000 students across Canada every summer.
“[Applicants should] do some research on wherever they’re interviewing,” he says. “That always makes a differencethat someone at least has a little feel for what the company is.”

Office Couture

You managed to make a good impression during the interview, so don’t destroy it the moment you walk in the door. Staying away from clothes that are too tight or revealing, keeping jewelry to a minimum, and avoiding T-shirts with prominent brands or messages are all good starting points for a new job without a prescribed dress code. From there, Lynch advises, just take your cues from your co-workers. “Within your first month you get a feel of how everyone else is dressing,” she says.

Get Noticed
While standing out for showing too much skin might not be the impression you want to make, standing out for doing a good job is. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ever ask for help. “Don’t be afraid to ask questions of your superiors,” Lynch says. It’s often the best way to make sure you’re doing the job at hand correctly.
    Also, keep an eye out for opportunities to go above and beyond your job description. Taking initiative can help you pick up new skills and get noticed. Look for things that need to be done and do them. Keep in mind the skills and experiences you hope to pick up over the course of your employment. When an opportunity for such an experience comes up, Lynch encourages you to ask your supervisor if you can get involved.
    “Basically, get yourself involved with things that interest you,” she says. “Make sure you know what you want to do so that you can verbalize that when you meet with the supervisor.”

Social Time

Once you’ve made a good impression, you’d hate to lose it by socializing too much on the job. Protocol when it comes to social interaction at the office changes from place to place, Lynch cautions, so try to be aware of what the rules are. How much time do you get for lunch and when can you take it? Are personal phone calls or emails okay?
    While office gossip is something to avoid—especially if you’re on the job or in a place where the wrong person might hear you—socializing with your co-workers itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As long as you remember that you’re in a place of business with a job to do and certain rules to stick by, Lynch says, getting to know co-workers can actually be a good networking opportunity. “You never know whether the person who works beside you every day could possibly give you an opportunity later on when you graduate,” Lynch adds, “so develop positive relationships in your workplace.”

Money Management

Now that you’ve earned a few extra clams from your summer job, how do you make the most of it? Mary Lou Henry, a financial planner with RBC Financial, suggests a few money management tips:

1) You’re never too young to find a personal banker. Visit your financial institution of choice and find someone you feel comfortable with. Research the bank’s financial products on the internet before you go, and don’t be afraid to ask questions when you get there.
2) Set goals. Complete a simple budget of how much money you’d like to put aside from your part-time or summer job. Open a specific bank account for that purpose and put away a set amount from each paycheque.
3) Monitor where your money’s going. Bank fees can quickly eat away at your earnings, so things like learning how to use bank machines properly—to avoid heavy transaction fees—can go a long way to help you save money.

Certain bank products might also be well suited to your specific needs. A prepaid debit card, for example, might help you budget better. Partnering with MuchMusic to benefit War Child Canada (10% of the net profit goes to WCC), MasterCard recently introduced such a card. “The prepaid aspect of it gives [young people] some control over their money, so they don’t just have direct access to their bank account like you would with a [traditional] debit card,” says Maria Hale, Vice President of Content Business Development for CHUM Television. “It actually limits the amount of money . . . to what you put on the card.”