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  • What To Do About the Just-a-Job?

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    Last semester, I had the good fortune to attend a panel discussion with four young SFS alumni now working full-time.

    Of the topics that came up, one of the most interesting was the question of what to do with what I’m going to call the just-a-job. The just-a-job is the cashier job you took because you needed gas money over the summer. Or the receptionist job you took in a student affairs office on campus to have a little spending money during the school year. The just-a-job is the kind of job that is not, in any obvious way, preparing you for a career. It’s just a job.

    I review resumes all the time and many students treat these kinds of jobs as afterthoughts or ask if they should take them off their resumes altogether. They suspect the job is not relevant or, worse, that employers will look down on it. Not so, based on the experiences of our SFS alumni.

    And this is the point that our panel of alumni drove home. The just-a-job isn’t something that you should take off your resume. It isn’t something you should feel sheepish about. It should stay on your resume and you should be proud of it. Because that job has value.

    The key is to understand how the just-a-job works in your favor:

    1) It shows that you are not above working as a cashier or answering phones. One of our SFS alumni shared a story about how his employer liked this about him. Many employers will feel the same way.

    2) Articulate what you learned in your just-a-job and you will stand out, especially if you can go beyond a simple summary of what you did as a cashier. Talk about what you learned from that experience and how it will help you in the job you hope to get. In doing so, you’ll demonstrate your ability to communicate well and, perhaps more importantly, that you have thought about the employer’s needs.

    Our alumna who worked as a receptionist on campus learned how a tight-knit team of professionals works together. When she interviewed for full-time jobs, she was able to talk about how much she valued working on a similarly tight-knit team. Her eventual employer appreciated that she, as someone just graduating from college, understood how a professional office works and what was important to her in a workplace environment.

    When you find yourself working a just-a-job, pay attention to what’s going on around you. Learn something. Then remember what you learned when you’re applying for jobs. And by all means, put it on your resume.

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