We’ve all been there. You’re transitioning out of part-time work and applying to those full-time positions that are the start to that dream career you’ve been planning, and you have a moment of pure panic.
What on earth do my part-time skills have to do with this job I really want?
You don’t want to rely on your college internships alone, yet you’re concerned your dream career is unreachable if you tell the interviewer you’re currently waiting tables.
The good news is, your current pay-the-bills gig can absolutely help you land that first dream gig. Sure, you may not be filling cups with marinara, mixing dressings, or “marrying the ketchups” in your dream career, but when it comes to marketing your “need-to” job skills to help land your “love-to” career, its not about the details. It boils down to two words: universal skills.
Think about the overarching skills you need in your current gig. It may not be what you want to do forever, but there’s no denying that you’re a hard worker and crazy determined for being willing to do whatever it takes to build your dreams and still pay your bills. See? There’s two traits already!
Make a List
Make a list of broad skills your current job requires, and narrow those down into specific subsets that could be read like bullet points on a resume. For instance, if you’re waiting tables, your broad category could be “good communication and people skills” and your subsets could include things like “Successfully coordinates multiple team members in different divisions to ensure quality customer service nightly” and “Utilizes knowledge of company values and products to upsell customers, frequently increasing personal sales by 20% per shift.”
It sounds much more professional and gives you some perspective on the importance of what you’re doing now to make ends meet as it fits into the larger puzzle of moving into your “love-to” career.
The important thing to remember while listing and fleshing out your universal skills is this: no one is trying to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes. You’re not going to get away with skirting the fact that you’ve been slinging burgers or filing away invoices for the last year or two. Don’t try to fool the interviewer into thinking you’ve been doing a big important job – the only thing that will do is make you look dishonest and manipulative. Not exactly the way you want to start off at a new job.
But if you can show the interviewer that you have learned things from your current position even though it’s not ideal, you’re in a good position. Everyone understands, to some extent, that the job market isn’t exactly astounding right now. And being younger, you may be stuck in that wonderful post-grad dilemma of “I need experience to get a job but I need a job to get any experience.”
Go the Extra Mile (and highlight it!)
Having the ability to find the light even in the darkest of situations is a powerful trait that employers absolutely want on their teams, and understanding what skills you have gained or honed while working a “need-to” job puts you a jump ahead of other applicants.
And just because you’re working a “need-to” job right now doesn’t mean you clock in, do the bare minimum, and clock out. Those above and beyond steps you take are important to highlight in the interview as well. Maybe you discovered a neat trick to help everyone keep their inboxes organized, clearing out clutter. Or perhaps you reorganized the dry goods at your restaurant in such a way that made them more accessible, thus making everyone’s jobs more efficient, from stocking to cooking and side work. If you identified a problem at your current gig and took the initiative to find and implement a solution, that’s another universal skill you can add to the list. You’re a creative problem solver, and you have anecdotal proof to back it up. The ability to tackle a problem without having to be told it exists is another highly sought-after skill employers look for.
Noticing your universal skills is all about thinking of your “need-to” job in more abstract terms. Focusing on the bigger concepts instead of honing in on the details. While being detail-oriented is usually a good trait to have, they also say “the devil is in the details” (you know, the big, ethereal “they” that apparently holds the universe’s best kept secrets), and when it comes to taking the next step in your career, the nitty gritty of what your day-to-day looks like now really isn’t necessary. Skip the details, and show your value in the interviewer’s language.
So even though you’re flipping burgers or answering phones, walking dogs or filing someone else’s invoices, you’re building skills that will come in handy when that “love-to” job opportunity pops up. Make sure you’re stepping back to give yourself that perspective often enough to have a pulse on just how much you’re building your resume. You might be surprised at how much you’ve gained and that might be just the extra dose of inspiration you need to really go after the “love-to” job you’ve been daydreaming of while wiping down tables and sweeping sections.