Lifeguarding Lessons

That’s a wrap on the summer! We’ve officially hit fall as September has breezed past us. The weather here in VA wants to hold on to every last bit of summer though (I can’t complain).  I thought I’d do some reflecting on my summer jobs as a lifeguard in Virginia Beach. Granted, my summer has been long over as I started my career in June and moved to Fredericksburg in July, but I wanted to take a minute and reflect on what lifeguarding taught me.

But first a little background:

I had two very similar positions within two companies. I was an Assistant Manager and Lifeguard at Little Neck Swim and Racquet Club and a Substitute Manager with AAA Pool Service. I started at Little Neck as a lifeguard when I was 16 back in 2010. This was my very first job, and I remember being so excited that I was working at the pool that I spent most of my childhood summers. I worked as a lifeguard for two years then I added managing to the position in 2013.  AAA manages pools in the Hampton Roads area, and the pool sizes range from multi-guard community pools and one guard apartment complex pools. I travelled all over Virginia Beach, Norfolk, and Chesapeake to fill in where pools were understaffed for the day.

Ok! Enough background, here are some of the most important things I learned:

–Patience: Patience is key. And I really mean it. There were days that I kept blowing my whistle at the same kid for hours. Or the minutes ticked slowly by and I counted them down until my shift was over. Sometimes, I worked with someone I didn’t enjoy working with. It’s easy to get frustrated, but I’ve learned that things happen the way they will and you just have to go with the flow.

–Customer Service: This is another huge thing within lifeguarding. It’s not as big if you worked as a waiter/waitress in a restaurant or retail or an actual customer service position but you’re interacting with patrons of the pool on a pretty regular basis. A simple smile and good morning or hello work. Just to show that you’re friendly and are happy to be there. You want to keep a good rapport with the patrons because ultimately you can be responsible for their lives.

–Find things to keep yourself busy: Sometimes I was at a pool with AAA, and literally, no one would show up for the entire day. Most of the time, I worked at a pool by myself because I had my pool operators license and I could manage the pumps on my own. Things got very boring quickly… I found myself rifling through my list of daily duties to see if I missed a step or if there was anything that needed to be done but then sitting in my chair for hours at a time.  Bring a book, your laptop,  your phone, knitting, a pair of goggles for swimming, really anything to keep you busy.

–Troubleshooting: Since I have my pool operators license, I was responsible for making sure the pumps ran smoothly while on shift. This meant testing chemicals on an hourly basis and adding chemicals when needed. I was also responsible for fixing a pump if something wasn’t working right to get things back up and running. At Little Neck, I dealt with the same set of pumps for four summers, but at AAA, the pump setup would be different at each pool I went to. I had to quickly learn the idiosyncrasies of each pump and how to fix each of them.

–Management: While I’m not the best manager in the world (and I never will claim that I am), learning how to deal with employees and manage tasks was a very valuable asset. These tasks involved facility clean up like picking up trash, cleaning bathrooms, and straightening furniture. I would train new employees on the protocol of the facility and train employees on updated protocols.

Lifeguarding is one of the best and most rewarding summer jobs a teenager could have. I mean who gets to spend the entire day outside in the summer! I am fortunate to have the opportunity to work with some awesome people over the years, that I now consider mentors, and gain some valuable professional experience. Cheers to a new venture in the professional world!


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