When it comes to writing your CV, an application form or answering questions at interview, don’t under-sell your part-time job. Working in a shop or restaurant etc, will have exposed you to situations that required you to use skills which graduate employers value. The key is knowing how to then market these experiences to make them relevant to the graduate job market. See our examples below. If you’d like to find out more or to get feedback on what you’ve written, vist the Careers Centre.
1. Customer Service
Businesses are only too aware that providing excellent customer service is vital for retaining customer loyalty. Demonstrating that you know how to deliver friendly, polite and considerate service to customers will help you when you are applying for jobs after graduation. Don’t be shy to talk about times when you have gone that extra mile for a customer either.
2. Problem Solving
What did you do when problems arose at your work-place? Did you decide to tackle the issues yourself, or work with colleagues? What did you learn from the experience? Being able to solve problems when they arise is a skill needed in every type of employment. Using the STAR technique (Situation Task Action Result) is particularly useful when structuring your answers to demonstrate the skill to employers.
There may have been times when you used initiative in your part-time job, so why not show this off! Did you spot a way of making customer care more effective, for example, or of increasing sales in your department? Perhaps you came up with a way to motivate the rest of your team? You might think that your idea is not much to shout about, but to a potential employer it demonstrates initiative and commitment to improving your work environment.
4. Commercial Awareness
While you are busy stocking shelves or helping customers purchase clothes, you are developing an awareness of commerce and business that employers value massively. Knowing what type of jeans sell best in your store, or what the core clientele of your sales job is, is a demonstration of commercial awareness. If you can combine this with an example of initiative to show that you have contributed to improving the profitability of the business, you are helping make yourself a desirable candidate for future jobs.
4. Working Under Pressure
Did you ever have to stay calm and keep smiling as a big queue built up at your checkout? Did you have to accommodate people looking for a table at your busy restaurant? Working in the evenings and weekends you would have been at the forefront of peak trading and service hours. This experience can be used to show potential employers you possess resilience and a calm attitude for their fast-paced business.
5. Team Work
Successful businesses depend on different teams working well together, so think about how your part-time job involved team work. Did you take part in team meetings and if so, what did you contribute? If you worked for a large company, how did your smaller team fit within this organisation? Perhaps you also worked in an environment with people from various back grounds, races and religions, and can therefore show cultural awareness and sensitivity?
7. Communication Skills
Having to deal with the public every day, whether via the telephone or face-to-face, you would have developed core communication skills. Resolving customer complaints, helping a customer to make a buying decision, working with colleagues within your organisation – all of this requires the ability to listen effectively and to engage with people. Think also about defining your abilities in terms of persuasion, negotiation or influencing.
8. Meeting Targets and Deadlines
Did you have set targets within your job and did you meet or even exceed these targets? If you did, you will be demonstrating to future employers that you have the personal drive and tenacity to achieve set goals. Being able to deliver what was required of you within a set time frame also shows time-management skills, crucial to any line of work.
9. IT/Administration/Numeracy Skills
Your job might have required you to use a till, handle cash and perhaps to administer reductions to stock during a sale. The basic numeracy skills these actions require are not to be dismissed when compiling your CV. The same goes for any administrative experience or use of IT. Did you have to track your sales through the use of spread sheets, for example? Maybe you were required to answer customer emails, use certain software, or help with filing?
10. Team Management/Responsibility
Were you given extra responsibilities in your job, or even promoted to a supervisory position? Perhaps you have taken the lead role in group work, or guided a new starter through their first days? These are all valuable examples of team management and leadership. Any experience in which you have been given personal responsibilities shows trustworthiness and competency at your job.