Theodore Roosevelt quote

How to Turn Any Experience Into Professional Skills

As a college student, one of the things I hear most about is gaining professional experience during my four years of undergraduate education. Internships, co-ops and part-time jobs are always strongly encouraged, but can be difficult to manage during a full-time course schedule.

How do you gain professional skills in college (or as a recent graduate) if you aren’t necessarily working a job in your industry, but rather a job that works with your student schedule and pays the bills? Easy! All jobs require specific skills – you just have to know how to transfer them into any career.

Follow the guide below to impress any employer with your skill set.

1) Customer service is key (and kindness never killed anybody!)

Did you spend your summers waitressing, working retail or lifeguarding? If so, chances are you had a run-in or two with an upset customer or someone who needed your assistance. In such roles, you learn the value of customer service, how to diffuse tense situations and how to best represent your employer in tough times. Sure, dealing with someone who is mad that their meal is cold may not seem like a professional skill at the time, but employers are always looking for someone who is well-spoken and knows how to positively represent their brand.

2) Work smarter, not harder – it’s all about strategy.

Those nights of taking inventory, cleaning the pool house or trying to figure out how to get the kids you babysit to fall asleep will pay off. Those situations will teach you the skills needed to finish a job effectively and efficiently – helping you build strategies. Did you create a new inventory system that made stocking a store easier? Great! You just assisted the company in building a strategy to streamline inventory.

3) There’s no ‘I’ in team and teamwork is inevitable.

Throughout high school I worked as a lifeguard and swim lesson instructor. While these may seem like pretty independent tasks, a lot of teamwork is involved to effectively run a pool. Learning to communicate in a team setting is essential – even if it just means telling the next shift about the crazy boys that wouldn’t stop doing flips off the diving board. In a professional setting, teamwork is inevitable and employers want to know that you can work well in a team setting. Look at those late-night closing shifts and waitressing rotations as being part of a professional team and use those moments to highlight your communication skills.

4) Being a full-time student really is a full-time job.

Being a full-time student is hard; give yourself some credit for it! Balancing courses, extracurriculars, job(s) and a social life really is a job within itself. Prior to working at Prosper for Purpose, I had never worked in an agency setting – but I used the skills I honed from balancing 17 credit hours to explain in my interview that I always met deadlines for various “clients” or professors during the academic year. Along with being a full-time student, I held two on-campus jobs that added to my hectic schedule. In comparison to my school schedule (and that of many of my peers), a 9-5 schedule isn’t half bad!

Not every job will be your dream job, but the skills you take away from each position can get you there. By using every opportunity as a chance to build your presentation, time-management and planning skills, public speaking abilities and work ethic in a team setting, an employer will care more about the skills you bring to the table instead of the company names on your resume.

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