My employment journey began at the pool. I was 12 years old on my middle school swim team and my coaches had recently had their first child together, John. They brought him to every practice while they coached so that they wouldn't have to leave him at home with a sitter.
I was smitten by the little guy and I soon noticed that it was becoming harder for them to coach as he became more mobile. I saw my chance to not only spend time with this adorable toddler but to start earning some income as well.
My coaches agreed to let me start watching him while they worked, so I began watching him every day after my practice for over 2 hours a day. I’d never babysat before and I learned very quickly that it was fun, but exhausting. I watched him in a separate room by myself so I had to learn how to play, distract, redirect, feed, and change an active toddler.
I was paid $5 an hour and I was hooked. I saved up for tickets to movies and clothes, and it felt nice to be able to buy things for myself. I worked all through 8th grade until my coaches eventually found a full time sitter.
Drowning in Babysitting
The summer after 8th grade I had my first summer job babysitting for the Lakes, 3 kids and a dog. Almost every day while the parents went to work, I would help them with summer work, take them to the park, organize little activities to keep them entertained, and make them both lunch and dinner.
This was the job that helped me realize I loved working with kids. I also babysat for a few other families occasionally, but the Lakes were my most consistent customers. I took babysitting very seriously. Everytime I started working with a new family I would give them references as well as a printed resume to show that I was responsible and a good fit for them.
I also got infant and child CPR certified and learned how to cook some basic meals so that I could always make something for my kids if they were hungry. As a babysitter I not only played with the kids and put them to bed, but I prided myself in being able to cook and clean as well. I wanted my families to be confident in me and my abilities, and feel safe leaving me at home with their children.
The following summer I got a job as a lifeguard at Thornton Park Pool. I was a lifeguard and swim instructor. The pool was a bit of a hike from my house, so every day I had to ride my bike (all the way uphill) to get to the pool on time. I had to monitor patrons, enforce pool rules, and teach summer camp swim lessons to kids aged 5-9. From this job on I was hooked.
I loved having something to do with my time and I loved being able to have an income that I could do whatever I wanted with. From that year on, I have had a job every summer, and I also started finding more ways to earn money during the school year as well.
Using What I Know
I have been playing the cello since 4th grade, so I have a lot of experience both in an orchestra and also working with my own tutor. I began teaching middle school students basic skills such as how to hold a bow, how to play basic scales, etc.
I taught some of my more advanced students different songs using suzuki books, and also worked with a student for months on a song for him to perform at his Bar Mitzvah. My job as a cello tutor taught me how to create a schedule as well as work with other families to decide what is best for their children.
The summer after my job at Thorton, I was finally old enough to apply to work at my city pool, Beachwood Family Aquatic Center. This has become my favorite summer job that I have ever had. I finally got to work with kids I knew from my school. We messed around almost as much as we actually worked.
We had “guardies” (guard parties) and potlucks and celebrated every guards’ summer birthday with cake and popsicles. We taught camp swim lessons, and guarded patrons during pool hours. Because of my previous work experience at Thorton I was able to help create lesson plans for swim lessons as well as help my fellow guards learn how to teach.
The friends that I made that summer are friends that I continued to have during the school year as well. I am hoping to work there again this summer but considering how competitive of a job it is, I am still waiting to hear back on my application.
As a varsity swimmer, I spend almost all my time at the high school pool during the school year. This is how I came to learn that my high school offers swim lessons to kids in the community. I jumped at an opportunity to work with kids and also make a little money on the side, so I talked to the manager (who is also my swim coach), set up an interview, and got the job.
I love working with kids. I teach not only private but group lessons as well. My newest project has been toddler swim. My manager and swim coach, Brad, asked me to put together a program for parents and their toddlers. I had to build a curriculum from scratch that would make both the parents and kids feel comfortable in the water, all while having a good time as well.
It was very awkward at first having to talk to the parents in the freezing cold water all while dealing with screeching toddlers, but it has grown into my favorite part of my job. I love getting to talk to my families and their kids and I have formed special bonds with all of them.
Again while working at the pool, another opportunity arose when I noticed a new swim program being hosted. Rec2Connect is a swim program for mentally disabled kids that allows them to work on training in the water. They began working at the high school during practice and I talked to the director, Dan, because I was interested in helping out. I now make sets for their swim team as well as helping with teaching them proper technique. Even though this is not a paying position this side hustle helped teach me patience and further proved that working with people is something I not only enjoy but excel at.
Soon I was making enough money that I had to open my own checking account. I had to learn how to maintain a bank account, transfer money into savings, and how to write/ submit checks to the bank. I started saving money for college, putting away money to spend on my friends and family for birthdays, etc. and I no longer have to ask anyone if I need or want to buy something. My jobs gave me the independence to take control of my income and spend/ save it however I want.
My journey to employment has been very long, but very rewarding. From working with kids both in and out of the water, I have found these jobs to be incredibly important to me. They give me a routine and keep me from sitting on my couch all day. I love the feeling of having responsibility and going to a place that is my own. My side hustles have served me very well in teaching me how to stay productive, how to work with others, and most importantly, what my true passions are in life.
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