Did you know that by accepting that job as a restaurant hostess between your sophomore and junior year of college, you could be unlocking a more satisfying professional future? As summer winds down and students prepare to head back to school, it is an ideal time to review your past couple of months and lay the ground work for career connections.
First, think about any work you completed. All work, regardless of the nature, has the opportunity to teach us about ourselves. What skills did you learn? What things (or co-workers) did you like and not like? When you reflect on your experience, your preferences and qualifications become clearer. Knowing these preferences and qualifications AND having the vocabulary to describe these to potential employers is critical to landing the RIGHT role. The guide below will help you to take your summer job and translate it into your future career.
Retail. Did you love the experience or did it cause you to break out in a cold sweat whenever you went near the mall? Not all students are suited for a hectic retail environment. For those who are, here are key professional skills necessary for success: customer service, patience, active listening, approachability, suggestive selling, being observant, commission or goal motivation and the ability to multitask. You may not have loved all the parts of the job – but break down the areas where you excelled and struggled. These same skills are very transferable to many different careers – so having the vocabulary around your specifics will aid you in making future career choices.
Childcare, coaching or teaching. Did you like the kids but dread the parents? Were you a push over but loved by the whole team? Did you feel proud when you saw a child learn something new? There are many types of jobs working with kids. Some of the key skills required are patience, creativity, controlling your behavior (button pushers are everywhere), organizing a group, managing expectations, collaborating with multiple "stake holders" (i.e. parents), having firm but fair-rule creation/adherence, negotiating and networking. Skilled teachers recognize that planning in advance and knowing your audience go a long way in class. These same strategies are invaluable in the professional world.
Food service. Skilled food service employees can handle most workplace chaos. Did you find you could satisfy hungry customers, suggest that extra dessert and smile as they paid their bill and left? Restaurant employees often have the following attributes – the ability to multitask, efficiency, a sense of humor, speed, great memory, approachability, service attitude, work ethic and a sense of teamwork. The restaurant employee may have a more difficult time adjusting to a slower office environment, but if they can look for roles that allow them to leverage those other strengths, they have a better chance of a satisfying career match.
Office assistant. Did you provide operational or administrative support to a business this summer? Some of the critical components to assisting roles are: "coachability," organization, technical skills (office machines and software), accurate keyboarding, project management, professionalism, understanding of business protocol, communication skills, problem solving, setting realistic expectations and knowing when to seek help. Review your role to determine how you fit in. Once you have a more detailed view, you have a better lens to use in examining future prospects.
Long-term career satisfaction comes from identifying roles that make good use of a person's skills and abilities. The challenge faced by employers of new graduates is that most entry-level professionals can't verbalize their unique skills and abilities. In today's busy work environment, many managers don't take the time to identify those talents for you. By creating a list of your strengths, recognizing your weaknesses and knowing your interests, you can take control of selecting and landing a career that is matched to you. Additionally, once you are in your first role, you can continue to seek out projects and work that leverages your natural talents and develops other traits. Don't wait until you get into your first real "job" to figure it out. Let this summer's work be the foundation for recognizing a satisfying future role.
Robin Reshwan is the Founder of Collegial Services, a consulting/staffing firm that connects college students, recent graduates and the organizations that hire them and a certified Women's Business Enterprise (WBE). She has interviewed, placed and hired thousands of people across a broad spectrum of companies and industries. Her career tips and advice are used by universities, national clubs/associations and businesses. A Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Robin has been honored as a Professional Business Woman of the Year by the American Business Women's Association. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa and as a Regents Scholar from University of California, Davis.