It’s All Valuable: Why Your College Jobs Matter

Chris Stanley
June 27, 2015

Students often hold a variety of jobs during their four hectic years of college.  Some they hate, some they love, but all are necessary as they allow them to make some sort of income to cover living expenses until they graduate and get bombarded with student loans.  All of the experiences provided through these jobs are often overlooked by recent grads while entering the business world.  They can and should be used as a foundation while starting a career, even if the motive was to make overpriced rent, eat something other than a PB&J and still be able to buy a round of shots at Sissy K’s on Saturday night.  Here are the jobs I held in college and how I was able to leverage them to help start a career:

Coaching - Many current and former collegiate athletes get involved with coaching their respective sport.  While at the time it may be to stay involved in something you are interested in, it really is early stage management experience.  You are taking the knowledge you have gained from years of your own hard work and dedication and learning to effectively translate it to a variety of different talent levels and learning types.  You still experience competition, but you no longer succeed from your own athletic talents.  In order to win you now must be able to evaluate your team dynamic, capitalize strengths, improve weaknesses, learn to motivate different personality types and design a customized strategy to put your team in the best possible position to succeed as a unit.  All of that is required of a manager in the business world, except now your wins generate revenue rather than runs.

Bartending - Nothing quite like the times you were praying you would get cut before 2am so you could meet up with friends after a 14 hour double.  While the service industry can be very financially rewarding for a junior in college, it is equally frustrating dealing with a variety of drunk college students, rude tables and stingy patrons that just don't get it.  After two years of it I could infer what to offer a customer by sight, hold a conversation with anyone, grow and retain a relationship with regulars as well as establish a system to effectively deal with a swarm of people waiting for food/drinks.  What did it teach me about the business world?  How to deal with long hours, listen well in order to asses how to effectively speak with individuals, how to nurture and retain customers, identify needs to provide value as well as organize and tackle tasks efficiently.

(Bad) Internships - While in school there is often pressure to have internships.  While these are not always easy to obtain and often entail coffee runs and endless envelope stamping, you can learn a lot about your future path.  Picking a career path is overwhelming at 25, let alone 20.  I witnessed so many friends spending countless hours trying to find the perfect internship.  If you are anything like I was, the idea of the perfect internship changed more than I changed my major (3 times in case you were wondering).  I interned with a large, established technology company for a semester and I hated it, but it was more beneficial to me than if it was something I loved.  Why?  I found out what I didn’t like.  Treat this as a learning experience rather than spending 20 hours a week to have a resume builder and $10 an hour.  If you are able to understand the different roles in the office, the personality and attitude of employees, as well as what aspects you didn’t like, you will be able paint a large portion of the big picture.  Leverage this when you are applying for your next company - you will be able to provide concise reasons WHY you would be a fit for the position/company you are applying for.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when a candidate downplays the value of their past jobs.  Take a look at your non-business related experiences when you are putting together your resume.  You would be surprised how much of what you have done over the last four years will help you identify, land and succeed in an enjoyable career.  Just about anything you have done on top of graduating from college is of far greater value than just providing beer money.  It is an opportunity to grow yourself as an individual and add insights to your future business skill set.