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How your part time job is improving your employability

Our student blogger Maeve McDermott, an International Business with Spanish student explains why employers love to see part-time jobs on graduate CVs and why the skills you learn at a part-time job can kick-start your graduate career.

A university degree can provide you with excellent academic skills – you’ll become a pro at writing essays and studying for exams and gain a lot of course knowledge. However, with thousands of students graduating with identical degrees every year, a degree alone isn’t likely to be enough to impress employers. While firms don’t expect graduates to have years of work experience and be experts in their fields, they do want students to have transferrable skills that can are beneficial in the workplace. When applying and attending graduate job interviews. you will be asked questions based on your skills and abilities (often in answers to competency-based interview questions) and part-time jobs can often provide a valid source of examples as internships. Part-time jobs are something a lot of students do alongside their studies, but the skills they gain are often played down. After starting a part-time job in Queen’s Student Guidance Centre in 2018, I’ve gained an abundance of transferrable skills, most of which are without even thinking about them! Here are some examples of how part-time work may relate to transferrable skills you can discuss at interviews. 

Time management 

Juggling a part-time work rota with deadlines, presentations and lectures is a skill in itself. You might have to work an all-day shift the day before a deadline which means you have to learn fast how to plan your workload in advance. Learning how to manage your time and prioritise tasks is a very important skill and one you can showcase to employers, as they are likely to value candidates who can work on various projects simultaneously with varying deadlines. 

Communication skills 

Almost all jobs require good communication skills – either verbal or written. For instance, I spend most of my day helping students and members of the public with queries of all sorts – from advising students on how to book a careers consultation to helping lost tourists to locate the Lanyon Building. Be sure not to underestimate the importance of dealing with customer complaints, writing formal emails to clients or colleagues, and communicating effectively with team members. These are all vital in developing proficient verbal and written communication skills which will undoubtedly be useful in your future career and valued by employers. 

Adaptability 

In my job as a Student Assistant every day can be different. Pre-pandemic, my role would vary from generating social media content, to helping students with queries, to hosting Western-themed careers fairs featuring cowboy hats and live alpacas (yes, really!). Having to adapt to different tasks and environments demonstrates adaptability, so think about how you’ve had to adapt to changing environments in your own part-time job – for instance, having to face a changing role due to the pandemic. Employers value employees who can successfully cope with changes in the workplace and greater adaptability often means greater productivity, and that you’re more equipped to face challenges.

Self-discipline/resilience

While working on Excel spreadsheets doing data entry mightn’t be the most intellectually stimulating of tasks, it can still demonstrate important transferrable skills. Even if some of your responsibilities in a part-time job are somewhat mundane and repetitive, if you can maintain focus and accuracy while performing a repetitive task, this can be a good display of your self-discipline and resilience – something that employers will greatly value. 

Problem-solving 

Being able to come up with solutions to problems is something that is very important to employers, and something that almost always crops up in competency-based interview questions. Problem-solving requires you to use logic and imagination to make sense of a situation and create a working solution by thinking outside of the box. In fact, the best problem solvers actively anticipate potential future problems and act to prevent them or to mitigate their effects. Problem-solving skills also relate closely to analytical skills and innovative and creative thinking as it is necessary to analyse a problem to come up with a useful solution and thinking innovatively or creatively can often lead to the best solutions. Maybe you’ve come up with a more efficient way to count stock in a retail job, or had to think on your feet to overcome a double booking in a hospitality job. No matter how insignificant problem-solving experience may seem, it can almost always be made relevant and applied in interview questions. 

Part-time work throughout university isn’t only a way of earning a few extra pounds alongside your studies. Having and sticking to a part-time job can demonstrate that you’re committed, and CFO of Liberty Global Charlie Bracken told the UK 300 that he was “more impressed by someone who has done a part-time job throughout university than someone who climbed Mount Kilimanjaro”. No matter how irrelevant your part-time job may seem to your degree, chances are it’s developing your transferrable skills significantly, and often without you even noticing.  

Degree Plus can help you formally recognise the employability skills you have built up during extracurricular work as student. Self-nominate by filling out the Combined Experience application form in MyFuture, evidencing two or more relevant activities – part-time jobs, clubs and societies and volunteering can all count.

Good luck!

Deadline: 1 April 

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