Foliotek Blog

Lessons from My Part-Time Job

Warning: Lessons from a part-time job during college used to acquire a full-time “adult” job can lead to job advancement, insurance benefits, consistent scheduling, and stable income. Proceed with caution.

I used to dread telling my peers where I worked while I was getting my degree. There is something rather lackluster about being a part-time employee at an indoor playground while in college. It felt like everyone else had locked down internships in their fields, and there I was working what many people considered a “high school students” job. I’d spend my afternoons and weekends singing ‘Happy Birthday’ on repeat, cutting (eating) cake, locating lost parents, cleaning up various bodily fluids (too much info?), giving away prizes, and I couldn’t help but wonder ...

“How can I possibly turn this into relatable work experience in the future?”

Part-time jobs are generally temporary and should be used as a stepping stone to get from where you are now to where you want to be. Despite how “unprofessional” your job may seem to others, if you look hard enough, there are lessons for you to learn that any potential employer will recognize and identify with in their own experiences.

Lesson 1: Communication Skills

You’ll develop essential teamwork skills and invaluable communication experience with people from all different walks of life whether it be customers (or their kids!), fellow staff members, or managers. Many part-time jobs take place in fast-paced environments requiring individuals to step out of their shells and communicate effectively to get the task completed in a timely manner (or else face the consequences of unhappy customers).

Lesson 2: Time Management

This is one of the most valuable skills you can possess as a student and future working professional. This will come from a phase of trial and error. Some days, you’ll oversleep and run into work just barely on time without realizing your socks don’t match. Other days, you will have had time to make the bed, fix breakfast, enjoy a nice cup of coffee, walk the dog, and still get to work 15 minutes early. Despite those rough days, you’ll get a sense of how long your daily routine takes and learn to allot enough time in the future.

Lesson 3: Handling Stressful Situations

This will look different for everyone depending on what your part-time job entails. For me, this was the entire computer system shutting down on a rainy Saturday (prime weather for the indoor playground business). The computer system controls literally everything in the building from all monetary transactions to the arcade games. Now, I could have chosen to freak out. Instead, I handled the situation with grace and clarity. I provided the customers with necessary updates while using alternative methods for transactions which allowed us to avoid the potential uproar.

Regardless of how you earned your work experience, take solace in knowing that you learned valuable lessons in the process. And when the interviewer asks you to discuss your resume and job experience, answer with confidence because you got this!


3 Things to Learn from Your Part-Time Job

"You have to start somewhere." We've all heard that saying and it's true. Most people don't become CEO of a multi-billion dollar company overnight. Just ask Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett; his first job was delivering newspapers. Now look at him!

Some might think delivering papers is a menial job that has no connection to his current position as CEO. But my guess is that Mr. Buffett learned quite a bit from his days as a paperboy.
alt For most of us, our 'starting somewhere' involves a part-time job during high school or college. Maybe it's babysitting, flipping burgers, waiting tables, or making copies. It's easy to see these jobs as insignificant, something to just pay the bills or generate a little fun money. But I think those part-time jobs are more than that. In many cases, it's our first experience working in the real world. We get to see how businesses operate. We'll have good experiences and bad ones. But most of all, it's our opportunity to develop some key employment skills and get a sense of what we might want out of our dream job. So, during your next shift at your part-time gig, be thinking about these three things:

WORK ETHIC

Your work ethic is part of your personal brand. In fact, one of my colleagues wrote a blog post that explains how everything you do affects your personal brand. Therefore, you shouldn't take it lightly ... especially since a strong work ethic is a trait that employers will look for when hiring a new employee. Your part-time job provides the opportunity for you to build this characteristic: don't cut corners, do everything to the best of your ability, meet deadlines, look for things that need to be done and do them (even if they're not in your job description) and go above and beyond to surpass expectations. Remember that your current boss could be a great reference when interviewing for your next position, so make a lasting impact.

COMMUNICATION SKILLS

Chances are, your part-time job requires you to communicate with other people either verbally or in writing. This is great news because communication is one of the top skills wanted by employers!
alt Utilize this opportunity to develop your communication skills (which includes listening). Do some research, read this article, pay close attention in your COMM classes and apply what you learn in the workplace. If you learn how to speak and write professionally, you'll be one step closer to your dream job.

WORK ENVIRONMENT

Be aware of your surroundings and how you respond to them. Are you energized after a busy lunch rush at the burger joint or are you drained? Do you enjoy working inside or outside? Working with others or alone? What about management style? Are you a self-starter or do you prefer instruction from others? Noticing how you react to these aspects of your work environment can help you choose a career path that is the perfect fit. Make a pros and cons list for your current work environment, identify your must-haves and look for them when searching for your dream job. A fun quiz like this one can also help you think about what work environment is ideal for you.

No matter what part-time job you have, whether it relates to your major or not, there is something to learn. And when you learn it, share it. When you have experiences that develop your skills (gracefully dealing with a difficult customer, juggling a variety of tasks, writing professional emails), create a Foliotek project and put it on your ID page or ePortfolio. When you're ready to start your career, these are the stories you should share with potential employers.

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