Selling your part-time work experience to employers

Posted in: Applications, Work Experience

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. It's important not to undersell your part-time work experience in CVs and job applications, and clearly explain how it has developed your transferable skills. These include:

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 part-time role, or balance your part-time job with your studies and other commitments? Submit your project/essay early despite juggling multiple demands? What tools and methods did you use to organise your time and meet deadlines?

Communication. Did you talk that angry customer down? Resolve a conflict between two colleagues?  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?

Negotiation and persuasion. Did you persuade a colleague to try a new way of doing things? Persuade a customer of the value of a product?

Working under pressure: If you've kept your head in a busy bar/cafe/restaurant at peak times you'll have this in abundance

To make examples work for you, make sure you include enough information and context about what you did and what you achieved:

- Who did you work with?
- 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? Including numbers will give a sense of scale and scope e.g. how many people were in your team, how many customers did you serve during peak periods, what was your weekly sales target?

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 communicated 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.

What, so what, and what?

In the Careers Service we recommend using the structure 'what, so what, and what' to create effective bullet points that are action and impact-oriented.

What? ... did you do? This is the specific task, the job, the project, or the activity that you, not we, actually did

So what? ...what was the impact/outcome/success/achievement which resulted from your action? This where you should also be presenting the scope/size of the project and ideally any quantifiable results.

And what? ... and what is technical/transferable skill demonstrated in that activity which you now have in your toolbox?

Here's an example taken from part-time work experience:

Successfully delegated key tasks to store checkout team (what) enabling us to consistently surpass weekly sales targets (so what). Used listening and coaching skills to ensure that staff were engaged with team objectives (and what).

Finally, compare the effectiveness of these two ways to talk about a part-time job in a café; which student would you employ?:

Duties included serving customers, clearing tables, handling cash at the till.

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 to leave enough time to also tidy the dining area and make coffee. Enhanced my communication skills through dealing tactfully with customer complaints.

Remember you can book a CV and Applications Advice appointment to get some feedback from an applications adviser.

Posted in: Applications, Work Experience


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