Does your part-time job provide you with career-related skills? You might be surprised.


It’s August. Summer is coming to an end, and it's time to start wrapping up summer jobs and prepare to return to school. In the midst of all these changes, one thing often gets overlooked: updating resumes with the skills and experiences gained over the summer.

Many students often think that because they didn’t have an internship or other career-related position, updating their resumes is something they can put off, or – worse yet – simply not do. Unfortunately, this type of thinking can have a negative impact on future career opportunities, whether that’s an internship or co-op position next summer, or a full-time position upon graduation.

Let me tell you about Abe.* Abe was a student I interviewed at DePaul University while looking for upcoming graduates to fill our consultant needs. Although I pre-selected most of my interview candidates, I would often leave a few slots available for open sign-up. Abe managed to get on my interview schedule during this sign-up time. In reviewing his resume, I was not particularly impressed. There was nothing on his resume that stood out. And even while going through the standard interview questions, I remained unimpressed...until we started talking about his “part-time” job.

Abe didn’t list his job on his resume. He was actually embarrassed about it. You see, Abe had only recently become an American citizen and he was fairly new to the Chicago area. The only job he could get was as a taxi driver. Abe had a family to support, and took the job because he needed the money. But he didn’t want to talk about it. He felt the job would stereotype him, and he was ashamed that he wasn’t able to get a better position. However, I wanted to know more, and eventually he opened up. In the process of talking about this job, which had absolutely nothing to do with his career goals or the position he was interviewing for, he impressed me to the point that I invited him to the second round of on-site interviews.

Why was I impressed with something so mundane as driving a cab? For starters, although his job was considered part-time, Abe worked between 30-40 hours a week. While going to school full-time. And maintaining a 3.8 GPA. And supporting a family. That alone was impressive, but what I learned while talking with Abe was that he gained some amazing skills while driving a cab. New to Chicago, he had to learn to navigate his way around complicated city streets while simultaneously handling irate passengers. (This was before mobile phones and navigational systems). He was challenged on a daily basis by angry, disgruntled, and even racist customers. He had to handle stressful situations with a calm and respectful manner, or risk losing the only job he was able to find. Abe had to learn how to “think on his feet” (so to speak) and become self-reliant in solving problems. What a valuable set of skills for the consultant role I was hiring for!

Why am I telling you about Abe? Because Abe made the same mistake that students everywhere seem to make: he failed to realize the importance of his part-time job. Abe confided to me in the interview that he was getting frustrated; employers weren’t looking at him. I wouldn’t have pre-selected him for my interview schedule either if I had been given his resume ahead of time. Abe was offered a job with our company because things just happened to fall into place for him: I had a spot left on my interview schedule, I stumbled upon his job experience, and I wouldn’t let him off the hook from discussing it. The Abe I had the good fortune to interview, the one with many of the skill sets I was looking for in a consultant, gained through his part-time job...this was not the Abe presented in his resume.

So…here’s my question to you: are you accurately representing your experiences and capabilities in your resume? Or, have you left important items off, thinking they had nothing to do with your career goals? Take a fresh look at your resume. You might be surprised at what you find (or don’t find).

*Name has been changed

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