In this job market, many recent college graduates compete for jobs with professionals whose industry experience outweighs theirs. They often have a wide variety of seemingly non-professional, part-time work experiences that on the surface may seem unrelated to each other or a to chosen career path.
However, any work experience can further your talents and personal brand. Take inventory of the “soft skills”, talents and experiences acquired. Impress employers with your ability to articulate your skill set and how they are applicable to the job at hand.
Here are some examples:
Anyone with waitressing experience can attest that no two days are alike. It is a challenging job, forcing you to think on the fly, multi-task and thrive in a fast-paced environment. You are constantly interacting with customers and honing your conversation skills. Tactfully handling customer complaints and being honest are also essential.
Skill Set: responsibility, practicing good judgment, conversational skills, decision making, problem solving, listening skills, money-handling, multi-tasking, patience, organizational skills, ability to think on your feet, experience in a fast-paced environment.
If you have aspirations to manage or work in an office for your career, take this opportunity to learn all you can about how an office runs. Be curious, ask questions and learn from your supervisors and surroundings. Ask your boss if you can set aside an hour to ask him questions about how he got to where he is and how you can reach your goal. Also, be sure to highlight any writing, speaking or presentation experience you gained.
Skill Set: computer proficiency, phone skills, billing, interactions with customers/clients, organizational tips, decision making, responding to direction.
Retail or Food Service Worker
You don’t need to list that you learned how to create a deli masterpiece or use a fryer if that has nothing to do with the job you are applying for. But do extract the relevant experiences. Think carefully, be creative and ask yourself these questions:
Were you serving customers? Did you handle money? Did you practice attention to detail? Were you a supervisor or a trainer? Was teamwork important? Did you help initiate any new programs or policies? Did it grow your business knowledge?
Skill Set: customer service, handling money, attention to detail, problem solving, work ethic, responding to direction, supervising, training
Babysitter or Nanny
Teenagers often land their first job as a babysitter, and many of the skills used are needed throughout life. Babysitters must learn how to resolve conflict, deal appropriately with discipline and reward and have sound decision-making abilities. You must take responsibility for handling difficult situations and articulate any problems to parents. Also, entertaining children is not easy and can be a test of your creativity. Some of my more creative on-the-job moments were choreographing song and dance moves, “playing pretend” and constructing countless homemade forts. I’m sure these scenarios sound familiar to the fellow baby sitters reading this post!
Skill Set: responsibility, creativity, enthusiasm, patience, relationship building, judgment ability, leadership, giving directions, problem solving, resolving conflict
Don’t discount your work experience just because they aren’t directly career-related or internship experiences. The skills acquired from part-time work such as those listed above are extremely valuable in the workplace. Also, your ability to juggle a job and schoolwork will attest to your strong work ethic. Knowing how to articulate your experiences and make them relevant to your personal brand is key to marketing yourself to employers.
Other areer advice resources
- Monster Jobs, www.monster.com
- Yahoo! HotJobs, www.hotjobs.yahoo.com
- CareerBuilder, www.careerbuilder.com
- MSN Careers, www.careers.msn.com
- College Grad, www.collegegrad.com
- Job Web, www.jobweb.org
Cassie is a May 2009 University of Wisconsin-Madison Ag Journalism graduate. She recently unfolded her passion for public relations during her short stint as a PR consultant for a Madison, Wis. area non-profit and is looking to dive into the field professionally. Find Cassie on Twitter, BrazenCareerist, and LinkedIn.