I've seen a few students recently who have asked 'but are employers really interested in my job in a bar/shop/restaurant?' While some sectors will require relevant work experience, UK graduate employers value any experience that gives you insight into the world of work and helps you to develop the skills and competencies they are looking for in a context outside of your degree. Whilst it is important not to lie or exaggerate what you have done and achieved, it's also important not to undersell your part-time work experience. Part-time and vacation work can help you to develop a wide range of skills including:
Team-working. Did you work as part of a team in that bar or restaurant? What specific roles did you have within the team? How did you support and encourage team members? How did you build effective relationships with colleagues and clients?
Leadership. Did you come up with ideas for doing things more efficiently and get others on board with your ideas? Did you train/supervise/manage/inspire other staff members?
Attention to detail
Time management. Did you have to prioritise activities within the role, or balance your part-time job with your studies and other commitments?
Communication. Did you talk that angry customer down? Resolve a conflict between two colleagues? Persuade a customer of the value of a product? Explain a tricky Maths concept to a child on a summer camp? Present your ideas in a meeting or group setting? Field enquiries confidently and calmly over the phone?
To make examples work for you, make sure you include enough information and context about what you did and what you achieved:
- With whom did you work?
- What were your main duties/activities?
- How did your job fit into the organisation?
- What goals were you trying to accomplish?
Wherever you can, talk about the impact and result of your efforts. Did you complete tasks to deadline and budget? Increase sales or attendance figures? Get good feedback from a colleague or customer?
Try and keep away from phrases such as 'I was responsible for', or 'the job required me to', which tend to sound passive and weaken the impact of your skills and achievements. Instead, use as many verbs as possible to talk about your experience; for example, 'I interacted with team-members', 'liaised with suppliers', 're-organised the stock control system'. There is a list and examples of action words to include in your CV here.
Finally, compare the effectiveness of these two ways to talk about work experience a café; which student would you employ?:
Duties included serving customers, clearing tables, handling cash at the till.
I have developed my ability to work under pressure in my role at a busy city centre café. With around 70 orders per hour at peak time I have to work quickly and accurately so I have enough time to also tidy the dining area and make coffee. I have developed my communication skills through dealing tactfully with customer complaints.
Remember you can book a Quick Query appointment to get some feedback from a careers adviser.