Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

It's Wall Street over 'Baywatch' in Search for Summer Work LIFEGUARD SHORTAGE

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

It's Wall Street over 'Baywatch' in Search for Summer Work LIFEGUARD SHORTAGE

Article excerpt

Acting on pure migratory instinct, Rol Woolson has returned for 17 summers to this stretch of pristine beaches and rock jetties on the Jersey Shore, an hour south of New York City.

He does so to rejoin a flock of fellow lifeguards in an East Coast version of "Baywatch." Sitting atop elevated chairs, watching winter-white skin turn bronze, and sometimes saving lives, lifeguarding has always been one of the more sought-after summer jobs.

In any town, lifeguarding at a beach, pool, or swimming hole has traditionally reigned as the summer job with more allure than, say, mowing lawns or flipping burgers.

But over the past few summers, Mr. Woolson has noticed that the prime seasonal crop of lifeguards - college students - has declined. Here, as on distant shores, students are abandoning the perks of a beach job in favor of more career-oriented pursuits such as internships, a job on Wall Street, or a position in a congressional office in Washington. Some just stay on campus to take extra summer courses.

"I mean, it makes sense. There's, like, 500 people for every {job} opening out there. So, you've got to have something that makes you stand out. Good grades don't cut it anymore," said Woolson, who is a senior lifeguard and one of the old-timers at Sandy Hook beach, in Gateway National Recreation Area.

Sandy Hook was barely able to fill its staff of 70 this year. While past years provided enough applicants to fill a waiting list, this year beach officials found themselves scrambling to fill slots in time for Memorial Day.

Six lifeguards, just days before opening day, called to quit. "One of them got accepted for an internship, and two decided to go to summer school," said Thomas McLoughlin, Sandy Hook's chief lifeguard.

As tough competition for today's jobs forces college students to market themselves better, an internship or white-collar summer job has become a door-opener, a calling card to their future. …

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