I saw my first ad for “back to school” supplies today. It’s hard to believe that in about a month, at least in Georgia, children, teenagers and college students will be back in the classroom. What they learn in class is important, but what they do with their free time after class is just as important. In fact, part-time jobs as a student or during the summer can add valuable job experience that can open doors later on.
College degrees are valuable, and I wouldn’t suggest anyone not go to college if they have the chance and the money. But college and some job experience on the ground floor of a service business can make the difference when competing with other first-time graduate job seekers.
Restaurant Server – Restaurant servers have to be quick, efficient, keep a lot of details straight, work in a fast paced environment and work well with customers. The hourly rate can be as low as $2.33 per hour, but tips for great service from satisfied customers can push that rate higher than some management positions. Servers learn a lot about the restaurant business beyond serving food by opening and closing, learning menus, working with the kitchen staff, and delivering great customer service. This experience plus a degree in business or hospitality could make you a great candidate for an entry level management position.
Retail Clerk – I recently interviewed for a co-manager position with a major clothing store. I’ve got a lot of management and human resources experience, but without some retail experience I know I’m not on the top of the list. A part-time job over the holidays or for the summer may not bring in a lot of money, but it can be the right kind of experience to round out your resume after college or years later when you’re changing jobs or careers.
Grocery Store Checker – Talk about a boring job. Scanning and bagging groceries may be boring, but with the turnover in grocery stores, if you are a good employee and stick around you can move up pretty quickly. I ran into a former co-worker when she was manning one of the check-out registers at the local grocery store. A couple of weeks later she was running the customer service desk. With a business degree and grocery experience you could be running the store and moving up to a corporate position in no time.
Fast Food Worker - Ah, the classic part time job everyone loves to hate. Fast-food chains like McDonald’s or Wendy’s usually have excellent training for staff which is a plus. Whether you work on the line or counter, you learn how to work in a fast-paced environment, make orders to exact specifications, and work as team at just about every position in the restaurant. This is great training and experience if you want a career in hospitality, food service or hotel management.
Warehouse Operator – The explosion in online shopping has created a need for distribution centers and shipping operations. Big-box stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s operate on a warehouse concept, stacking merchandise in retail store warehouses. Warehouse workers with forklift experience, picking, packing and shipping merchandise have valuable front-line experience for a career in logistics.
Entry-level, low-paying jobs may not seem valuable at the time, but the experience gained can put you ahead of the pack when you’re ready to land your first post-college job or change careers later on.