Lessons from Lifeguarding

This summer I had the awesome opportunity of working as a Lifeguard for the Great Wolf Lodge, a hotel in Mason, Ohio that offers a fantastic overnight guest experience with an indoor waterpark and outdoor pool located right inside the hotel. Other than working for my high school, this was my first real experience with an outside company and it taught me many great lessons about  maintaining a strong ethic, interacting with new people on a consistent basis and creating a positive customer experience for people of all ages. Reflecting on my experience, I generated this list of things I will take away from this experience:

1. Be a Team Player. With over 110 lifeguards and hundreds of guests of a day, there is a lot to be done. Supporting my other lifeguards – even in the simplest ways sometimes with a smile – help to make the day go more efficiently and better for everyone. I learned that there is nothing that wasn’t my job – it was my responsibility to constantly strive excellence. Whether that meant sending people down slides, picking up trash, training new employees or greeting guests as they walk through the door, our work force functioned as a team each and everyday, did our job, and created a positive, supportive environment.

2. Networking. A constant theme of my life, networking, enabled me to get this job. Since OSU is switching to semesters this upcoming year, my summer was shortened to only around 8 weeks. My friend I have known since kindergarten and who goes to OSU with me is a supervisor at GWL and recommended me for this position. Having a friendly face around made my transition and made me realize how lucky I was to have her in my life. It had made me excited to do the same for other people and to continue to capitalize on the contacts I have made.

3. Validation is a great way to encourage people to continue striving for excellence. Oftentimes it is easy to fall into a routine and slip out of your best version yourself. One night, an aquatics manager from a YMCA called myself and two other guards out to our manager for doing a great job. This compliment and the recognition I got from my superiors as well as peers really boosted my confidence in this new position, made me feel comfortable, and pushed me to continue to do my job well. On the flipside, counstructive criticism may be hard to swallow at first, but its purpose is not to pull you down but help you to improve. Not everyone is perfect, you will make mistakes, but you can’t let one thing ruin your day or work experience.

4. Customer service should be the main priority of any company. In the tourist industry, especially, satisfaction and a happy experience will encourage them to continue to return to your hotel. People need to be treated with respect and know that they are safe and provided with excellent care in the case of emergency. At a place like GWL, they also want to have fun and they want their kids to have fun and be safe. Being charismatic and careful was key to providing a vacation that each family member would enjoy and remember fondly.

As I look forward to the upcoming school year, I am so lucky I had this opportunity and know that the skills I developed will enable me to perform and react in high-stress situations well as well as work better with a dedicated and focused team.


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