In a competitive job market, part-time employment during college can give you an edge over other candidates. Why? Because employers are more inclined to hire graduates who have experience in the workforce. Even if the jobs are unrelated to the field for which you’re applying, you’ve developed relevant competencies and skills that are valuable to the next employer.
And sometimes it’s the intangible benefits of early work that can be the most profound—like having the opportunity to adapt to the culture of a work environment. It may not seem like much, but it can help you build the necessary confidence to take the next step along your career path.
We invited alumni from the CES student staff team to share how work experience during college affected their career paths, or helped them transition to the world of work. They all happen to be Alumni Sharing Knowledge (ASK) Network volunteers, too, so sharing advice with Puget Sound students comes naturally to them! Here’s what they have to say:
“Working during college was such a great starting point for my career, especially since I worked in an office on campus and work in an office now. I got to be exposed to office life and relationships so that it wasn’t a foreign concept to me in my first job out of college.”
“I wasn’t as intimidated by ‘being a professional’ since I had already practiced in a safe and comfortable environment on campus.”
“Work experience during college helped round out my very conceptual course work in the IPE program with concrete skill development. Through work-study positions and summer employment at Puget Sound I unearthed many of my personal strengths that were not always visible during class but have positively guided my career path since graduation.
For instance, I worked two summers as a Conference Services Assistant and two school years as a CES office assistant. Both positions required tremendous interpersonal skills with a high number of clients, coworkers, and partners. As an introvert that is just plain exhausting after a while! However, I really loved it and found myself being really successful with my one-on-one personal interactions in those two positions.
Now fast forward to the present. I am the Program Coordinator with Communities in Schools of Seattle where I oversee site development, volunteer recruitment, and several district-wide projects. I work with a large number of volunteers, administrators, teachers, and community partners, but a lot of that interaction gets to be one-on-one.
At the same time, I get to apply the critical thinking and conceptual understanding of poverty, economics, and institutions that I gained in the classroom. The end result is a fulfilling career match.”
“I had the wonderful opportunity to work at CES for roughly three years. CES provided me with the opportunity to simultaneously manage school and work, thus shaping my work ethic and time management skills. Also, my roles allowed me to develop professional rapport and really hone in on the skill set I bring to the table.”
“Having a job in college taught me the importance of accountability and preparedness—two skills that not only help you in interviews but also keep you employable and valuable to a company.”
Tristan Burger ’09
“Having a part-time job during college was a great way to introduce me to the workforce and help me start building experience for my resume. Even working as little as 10 hours per week, I was able to begin a platform of experience on which to build a career. I learned how to answer phones, make appointments, and operate systems, but more importantly I learned the culture of the working world. Not to mention, it speaks volumes about the level of responsibility and maturity one must have in order to maintain a schedule of both school and work.”
“My experience gave me an upper-hand and also provided me with the confidence necessary to stand out in a sea of applicants.”
“Last week I was promoted to a manager at the hotel where I’ve worked for the past 2 years. Not only was I promoted despite not having previous managerial experience, but I also set the record for the youngest manager in the company’s history. I firmly believe that I would not have even been chosen as a viable candidate for the position if it were not for the experience I gained from my work-study job in college.”
“Having balanced multiple jobs and school work, I was much more prepared for the workforce—it can be a great shock to work forty or more hours per week!
My summer internship also helped me get accustomed to the long work schedule change, and also exposed me to potential work politics and dynamics. You never know what you’ll run into in the workforce! Your co-workers aren’t your dorm mates, professors or classmates; and it’s hard to find a balance sometimes.”
“Without at least a little experience, whether in an office or a row boat, it would be hard to interact with people in a work environment.”
“I think I would have been lost without work experience during college. It gave me a kind of confidence that I don’t think I could have gotten elsewhere. I expected myself to have a plan for right after graduation and I made it happen. I moved to another state to become an Americorps VISTA member because I wasn’t sure exactly what my intended career path would be. I did see the importance of having a job, though. And even if my first jobs weren’t my dream jobs, I’ve made it a point to take away valuable knowledge and experience from each one. Sometimes a job helps you to see what you don’t want and that is just as valuable.
“There are some things you just can’t learn in the classroom.”
Having part time jobs throughout college helped me establish contacts and references while also creating good work habits and expectations for myself. Though I sometimes grumbled about having to work during college, it added tremendously to my entire experience.”
Interested in seeking advice from any of the alumnae featured here? You can find all of them in the ASK Network!
© 2012 Career and Employment Services, University of Puget Sound