So you’ve managed to bag a few hours every week working in an administrative post in an office? That’s fantastic, you’ve got essential office-based work experience that employers value so highly!
But what if, like the majority of the working student body, you’re slaving away in a cafe, shop or bar at the weekends or holidays? Part-time work is essential in order for most of us to be financially stable during university, but often we underestimate the importance of promoting this work on our CVs.
The majority of students assume that unless you’re trying to break into the hospitality or retail sector, this kind of part-time work is irrelevant to your graduate job search. This is totally false. Every experience can be made relevant (as Bryony and Toby said earlier!). It’s all about dissecting your work experience and picking out key examples to provide evidence on your applications that you have the essential skills the employer is looking for.
I had my fair share of part-time jobs before graduating from university, and each of them have enabled me to develop the essential skills needed for the job I’m in now. Of course, a part-time role in an office would have been perfect as it would have provided me with important office-based work experience and administrative skills. However it’s not exactly easy to find an employer who would put up with me taking a month off at Christmas and three during the summer.
Instead I worked for 6 years both as a Sales Assistant in an independent craft shop and as a waitress in an American diner during the school and university holidays. During semester time I also worked as a Kiosk Assistant, glamorously selling beer and hotdogs at Old Trafford.
I didn’t (and still don’t) want to pursue a graduate career in hospitality or retail, but these roles did provide me with transferable skills that I would not have gained otherwise:
- Commitment: My dedication to the businesses I worked for proved impressive to many employers.
- Ability to work effectively under pressure: Like the time I had to stay calm and simultaneously apologise profusely to a customer after she complained that her chips were cold, and the chef fired the till across the cafe in anger.
- Conflict resolution: I worked in the away stand at Old Trafford. Need I say more?
- Communication: Working in hospitality and retail, you come across a wide variety of customers, each with individual needs and personalities. This allows you to learn how to adapt your communication styles to suit your audience.
- Teamwork: Likewise, when you work in one of the above sectors where the staff turnover can be very fast, you learn to adapt your working style to suit the different people you work with on each shift.
- Task delegation: Like organising who would deal with customers and who would sit in the back with their earphones in cleaning cutlery after the staff Christmas party.
No matter where you work or what you’re doing, you’ll always gain something from it. The key is decipher what skills you have and have examples ready to back them up. (Get help with identifying transferable skills on our website. You can also find some tips on sourcing work experience here.)