Skills: soft skills, technical skills, odd-job skills, seemingly unimportant skills. We all have them but very few truly understand how to make the most of them. Do you remember your first resume in high school? I remember listing every part-time I had – from adult library page (aka. I shelved books) to a barista (Starbucks, DunkinDonuts, AND an independent tea shop). All of these skills were eventually replaced with skills deemed more “valuable.” Internships and contract work replaced part-time work because they were considered “relevant experience” for the new jobs I applied for. But have you ever considered how all of those skills matter?
I am disappointed by those that dismiss part-time work. Without going into commentary about wealth and classes, it is my personal believe that part-time work for all ages can be beneficial and educational. I got my first job at fourteen and I was a glorious busser and the to-go-girl at a Grecian restaurant. Skills required? Not many. But I learned how to quickly answer calls, memorize the side dishes of meals, and how to keep organized during a Saturday night rush. If you want to throw out some buzz words you can try organizational skills, the ability to remain calm and clear-minded under pressure and so on. You are not lying, you are simply rewording your skills into a language your next employer might be more privy to hearing. When I read scripts and preview films for festivals, I now have an eye and understanding for a restaurant experience. I can recognize what is authentic and what is completely unrealistic.
Sitting in on a weekly marketing meeting, the team was brainstorming ideas on where to place a product. The target market was women ages 25 – 30. The discussion moved to movie theaters. I was a supervisor at a movie theater for a few months before I moved to Buffalo to pursue my MBA. How did that help? I worked under one manager and our core responsibility was to count inventory and order more stock every week. I have memories of counting boxes of candies and counting individual lids for each soda size available. It was not glamorous. But because I had this information we were able to track down the vendor that had partnerships with movie theaters in our region of the United States. Is counting soda lids the most groundbreaking skill ever? Maybe not. But if you take all the skills and experiences with you on your career journey you can find ways to apply them.
Third example of repurposing skills. I work with an organization that sells organic non-dairy milk (think almond milk). When I was an undergraduate I worked as a barista on campus. I learned how to make americanos, cappuccinos, lattes, and all the customizations in-between minus the pretty designs (no time for that). Why did this matter? We were discussing the uses of non-dairy milk besides straight consumption. One of the drawbacks I see with non-dairy milks is the inability to froth or foam the milk because of a lack of protein. I have failed many times to make a soy latte actually have a solid layer of foam. Recipes and products have improved with time, but when non-dairy milks first entered the market they were a barista’s nightmare because no praying, shaking, or frothing could help. I connected a real case study to a current product.
Do you have a long history of part-time jobs and other employment? Don’t disregard them! Stand out from the crowd by valuing your work history and the skills you’ve gained from that work. You never know how they might come back to help you.