Ask any student what they did over summer and you will probably get one resounding answer: “worked”. But would you expect anything else? In fact, three quarters of students work part-time while they study and over the holidays, spending their earnings on anything from bills and rent to socialising. And whilst it may seem like your part-time job in a high-street shop or local restaurant may be just that - a way to afford a night out or to pay for a weeks’ food bill – it is actually providing you with a lot of life lessons and skills you may have never thought of.
1) Communication skills
Do you find yourself explaining company policy over and over to different audiences in different ways? Then you’re adapting your communication skills to suit an audience!
I find myself repeating one specific company policy over and over to my customers and adapting this to be understood by anyone from an 80-year-old to a 16-year-old; if it’s taught me anything, it’s what types of words and tone of voice are understood by these different groups.
Odds are you’re also expected to communicate with colleagues daily about store upkeep and customer care. Again, this demonstrates communication skills and effective team-work, something employers often ask about if you are applying for a job where you may be working in a team.
One study found 56% of employers look for communication skills and 60% look for experience working in a team – so what may feel as a mundane and repetitive day at work, communicating with others is making you a more desirable candidate by the day.
2) Reliability and responsibility
Employers love to ask you about a time where you’ve taken initiative and been responsible – and retail provides many opportunities to do this.
Whether you’re asked to help lock-up one evening, have completed a specific set of training for your job, or even helped train new staff, chances are you’ve been given some responsibility that you can use to show you’re a reliable candidate.
In my job, for example, I have been food safety trained. Now whilst this may sound like I’ve taken tests and that I am the person people come to with all their food safety worries, in reality, it means I just check dates on sandwiches and the temperature of the fridge every couple of hours. But it shows I’ve been put in a position of trust and responsibility by my manager – something any future graduate recruiter wants to know they can do to a prospective employee.
3) Strong work ethic
A strong work ethic may be slightly harder to prove on your CV, however, what you say during your interview can prove this to a potential employer. Is there some kind of company initiative that you have to work towards every shift? Or have you taken on any extra responsibilities or training during your time in the job?
A study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers found 68.4% of employers wanted to see evidence of a strong work ethic, so it may be time to think about how you show this in that part-time job. Of course, you may be a great student who studies hard for their degree but being able to apply this ethic in a workplace is crucial to getting employed in that dream career.
Speaking as a socially-awkward introvert, I can honestly say retail has helped boost my confidence when communicating and working with others, as well as my confidence in my work.
It may seem like a small thing, but a confident employee gives an employer confidence in their abilities and work – so it’s a crucial characteristic to work on to make you the employable candidate you want to be.
Obviously, over-confidence can quickly turn into arrogance – a trait nobody wants to employ – but a simple thing like maintaining eye contact or clearly speaking in an interview can make you appear much more confident and calm, even if you’re screaming on the inside.
And who hasn’t had to explain coolly and confidently something to a particularly difficult customer? If you can talk down an angry customer about not being able to use an out-of-date voucher, you can ace an interview.
And there you have it, 4 great ways your part-time job can be used to boost your employability. So next time you’re writing your CV and trying to spin that summer job into something more worthwhile than a simple money-maker; there is a lot to be learnt from your time in a part-time job. Remember, it’s not what you learn, it’s how you use it.