The #1 Summer Internship

One night after work, I was in the home office still grinding away albeit at a slower pace when a male friend of our seventeen year old daughter Nora “Like I’m Totally Not Even Kidding” entered.

“Mr. Saxman, can I ask you a question?

“Sure, go ahead…”

“Do you know of any good summer internships available? I can do Excel, PowerPoint….”

I said, “Hang on a second…how old are you?”

“Yeah. I am a real hard worker and….”

“Whoa. How old are you?”

“Seventeen. I really want to find a good internship this summer.”

“You want to know what the very best internship is?”

“YEAH! What is it?”

“Waiter. Go wait tables.”


“Be a waiter. It’ll teach everything you need to know to succeed in the world of work. Trust me.”

He was dumbstruck. I could see the look on this poor kid’s face – “wait tables? like in a restaurant? like wait on my friends?”

I went onto explain that waiting tables teaches you in the shortest amount of time exactly what you are trying to learn in a short term position that fits your schedule.

  1. Contrary to the way kids are being raised today, most businesses don’t have a lot of extra room in their operations anymore just waiting and hoping that some resume building, but nice, kid will walk in the door offering their services for the summer months of mid June to the end of August. Not including, of course, any family vacation that they just cannot miss since this is, after all, one of the last summers they will ever ever have. The kid laughed at that bit truism.
  2. Most importantly you will learn how to become directly accountable for your performance in real time. You will know at the end of the meal if you have done the job correctly by the size of the tip you receive. And…
  3. Because of #2 you will be forced to learn critical steps in business operations – product knowledge, customer service, production and distribution, team work, and yes work ethic.
  4. If you don’t, you don’t make money. You will also learn competition in the market place, pricing, product quality, advertising, consumption patterns, and trend analysis.

“By waiting tables?” he asked.

“Damn straight. I waited tables, tended bar, was a bouncer, cut lawns, delivered newspapers, life guarded, worked in warehouses – you name it. But the most comprehensive, best, #1 summer job is waiting tables – bar none.”


“YES, really! And you make money. Pretty good money, in fact. But I learned so much and didn’t even know it!”


He started to come around a bit but I could still see the “this won’t pass social muster” look on his face. So, I cut to the chase.

“Look, life is pretty much about trying to get along with other people, right? In the end, we are all here to do that but it’s a two way street. By that I mean, we give and receive all the time and not consciously so.  Any profession or (air quoted this) ‘job’ is really about serving others and having a mutually beneficial relationship. The earlier in life you learn to enjoy serving others and building relationships, as well as being able to be served, the better off you will be.”

“I was really hoping to get an internship….”

“At what, a nice big company that looks good on your college application? ”


“Here’s the next piece of advice – if everyone else is Zigging, then Zag. Don’t follow the crowd. Besides, the crowd rarely gets to know the decision makers. They usually don’t run the intern programs. Do you want to know how to meet the decision makers, the business leaders, the one who can really help you get ahead in life?”


“Make them come to you!”

“How can I do that? I’m only seventeen.”

“Well, everyone has to eat right? Go wait tables and do a great job while you’re there. You’ll learn all you need to known and you might meet some really interesting people along the way. A lot of very successful and famous people waited tables. Colleges want to see a work ethic, so go work.”

I doubt seriously if he took my counsel, but it’s the same advice I give every young person looking to land that “best” internship.

The best internship is to wait tables. A lot of tables.

Just like the two successful people pictured in this post Jennifer Aniston and Robert Herjavec from Shark Tank.







Chris Saxman

About Chris Saxman

Father of four, small business leader, retired politician, and Executive Committee member and former Chairman of an international trade association, Chris Saxman delivers strategy and insight as a political coach and keynote speaker. Contact Chris.

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