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Published Jun. 26, 2012

My 17-year-old daughter, Charlotte, started her first summer job this week, and I want to give her and the millions of other teens who are earning their first paychecks some advice I wish I'd gotten when I started my first job. So in no particular order:

Don't think of your summer job as "only" a summer job. Whether you're a lifeguard, a burger flipper or a camp counselor, it is a position of responsibility. Others are counting on you. You're important whether you're taking orders in the drive-through or toasting the buns behind the scenes.

Always arrive early and stay late. It's frustrating to see employees routinely arrive late or just in the nick of time, and then leave as soon as the clock strikes 5 p.m., said Leigh Turner, executive director of the career center at Texas A&M University. Don't be the first one out the door.

Smile and be pleasant. No eye-rolling when you're asked to do something you deem below your straight-A average in high school. Your boss is not your mom.

Reputations are formed early. And they linger, said Kathy Fenninger, who teaches human resource management through Rice University. She recalls her daughter's first summer job as a bagger at a local grocery store.

Maureen, who recently turned 18, got kudos for always being where she was supposed to be, her proud mother recalls. Other baggers would go to the parking lot to pick up shopping carts and seemingly vanish. Someone would have to go round them up and get them back to work.

Dependable employees like Maureen aren't monitored as closely, Fenninger said. And they're more likely to get rehired next summer.

The reason you're working shouldn't affect your performance. Maybe you need to work this summer to earn money for gasoline or college tuition. Or maybe you don't need the money, but your parents think a job is a good way to build character.

One big complaint Fenninger hears from hiring managers is that teens whose parents force them to get summer jobs often are not motivated. "They're not into it," she said. And that comes across loud and clear.

Learn from your mistakes. Don't get mad if your supervisor reminds you of the no texting rule during work hours or coaches you on better ways to approach customers. Pay attention and use it as a learning experience.

Put your phone and any other electronic devices away at work unless you are paid to tweet, text or call your friends.

Watch your boss for clues on appropriate behavior. How does the boss greet customers? How does the boss dress? Is it okay to stand around drinking a soda during slow times? Or does the boss use downtime to get extra work done?

Take the initiative when you see something that needs to be done. When you take a break from your lifeguard post and you see some trash on the side of the pool, pick it up and throw it away. Don't wait for someone else to do it or for the boss to delegate. Just do it.

Be a problem-solver, not a complainer. When you're making your manager aware of a particular problem or situation, also present a possible solution, suggested Chris Sitz, business development manager at Adams and Reese. Sitz makes presentations to new lawyers to help them navigate the work world.

Never, under any circumstances, complain about your boss, co-workers or clients on social media. More careers than you can imagine have been cut short by inappropriate social networking comments.

And don't forget to enjoy yourself. This is summer, after all.