Q. My son, a full time college student, has just started his first summer job. He is working retail and in his initial conversations with his manager, based on my suggestion, he said he was available to work anytime. They are now giving him shifts every other day all week with no consistency in mornings, afternoons or evenings. I know he is low man on the totem pole, but what can I suggest he say to get shifts that give him days off together, or a full weekend?
A. Summer jobs are about more than developing a skill set of experience on the job. Employees learn the ins and outs of seniority, meeting expectations, communicating with a manager and the kinds of challenges they may see later in their careers.
First, make sure the schedule is your son’s issue and not yours. Parents are eager to help young employees on the job and may try to ”right” an issue they see that isn’t actually an issue for the young employee. If this is your son’s issue, help him look at why the manager may be scheduling in this manner. Looking at management’s side of any employment issue is a great lesson for employees as they progress in their career.
They learn to look for a win win resolution, rather than entering a discussions with management having complaints as opposed to requests, and offering potential solutions.
Availability as opposed to ideal schedule are not the same. Your son said he was available, which is what most managers of summer staff want to hear. Managers look at availability as they fill complex schedules with many full and part-time employees. They look at skill sets and training opportunities with the full staff team on each shift and not just one person’s schedule.
Does your son know if there is a reason for his schedule? Is he teamed with more experienced colleagues, or being scheduled to learn different jobs? He should look for patterns, but it may just be easy to use him as the utility player, without looking at what that does to his week.
If your son wants to change his schedule, he can look into the paperwork most often available such as written request forms to ask for days off, or to provide information about availability. Your son can offer information through this method. In addition, you can help him practice a conversation with the manager who schedules. He should ask to set up a time to speak with his manager off the floor. He might say, “I’d like to talk to you about my schedule. I really like my job and the experience I’m gaining working with different people. I’m working just about the right number of hours, and I’d like to see if my schedule can be grouped together more easily to give me some time off a few days in a row. I know some people work weekends only, or weekdays only, and I have flexibility. Are there days you see that I might be able to have off back to back without totally wrecking the schedule?”
Showing an appreciation for the job and an understanding of the challenges of trying to accommodate the requests of many people will go a long way in gaining support from the manager in charge of scheduling. I’d also let your son know he still may not get two days off in a row, but he will have built another kind of experience .