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“A stepping-stone can be a stumbling block if we can’t see it until after we have tripped over it.” – Cullen Hightower
When we discuss the process of looking for your first job out of college, what we usually mean is looking for your first real job out of college. Most college grads have actually been in the working world for a while in one way or another, even if it’s just what many consider “unskilled” work in fast food, waitressing, bartending, working a register, lifeguarding or dog-walking.
It’s important that you view your current job—as well as your past college jobs—as stepping stones toward your future career. When filling out job applications, many people do not include some of their college jobs because they believe it might make them look bad (wearing a chicken costume for a fast food restaurant?) or that the job experience gained is not relevant to the job you are applying for (how does working a cash register relate to the entry-level accounting job you’re applying for?). But you may want to rethink these ideas.
Why? First of all, because employers like to see that you remained consistently employed for a long period of time. If you leave out that infamous chicken suit job from your resume, the person looking over your resume may wonder why you were not working during the blank time period. Secondly, there are ways you can make even the most embarrassing work look golden on a resume. Instead of writing “I wore a chicken suit for six hours a day,” you can write, “I creatively promoted and raised awareness for my company, helping to boost sales.” That doesn’t sound so bad now, does it?
While the chicken suit may be an extreme example, the important thing to remember is to look over every single college job you’ve had, scouring it for the job skills you acquired that a future employer would find valuable. For instance, the employer at the accounting job you’re applying for may not care that you worked a cash register, but they do care that you have experience handling money and that you helped train new cashiers (that shows leadership skills).
Your education and college job experience together is a powerful combo. In the education section of your resume, you can emphasize courses you took in communication and professional writing, for instance. In the job experience section, you can write that you “demonstrated excellent communication and conflict management skills” while waitressing or working with customers in another capacity. After all, didn’t you get quite adept back in the day at pacifying even the crankiest of customers?
The point to remember in all of this is that it is far better to list your college jobs than to strip your resume bare when applying for your first real job out of college. Sure, extracurricular activities, volunteering and GPA may look good on a college application, but they won’t do you too much good all by themselves on a job application.
Be creative in the way you include your college job experience, and think long and hard about the skills you’ve gained because of them.
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Good luck in your search,