Skills you gain from a typical college job without realizing

Many college students work part-time jobs while in school, with many of them in the retail and food service industries. It’s easy to discount these positions as irrelevant and omit them from your résumé when applying to full-time roles after graduation, but employers often want to see that experience.

To make those jobs a valuable contribution to your LinkedIn profile and résumé, consider adding these seven skills you might not have realized you gained.

Time management

College students juggle quite a bit. Between classes, extracurriculars, jobs, internships and social activities, students often utilize every minute of the day. Beyond college, the ability to manage one’s time is highly valued by employers.

You’ve likely exercised this ability within your part-time job as well. For example, say your manager asks you to complete several tasks while still tending to customers’ needs. In order to successfully accomplish them, you’ll need to manage your time to ensure everything is completed by the end of your shift. This is just one example of the kind of time-management skills employers look for.

Fast-paced environment

If you work at a coffee shop, the weekday morning rush can be overwhelming. The fast-moving environment that you experience in a food service establishment strengthens your ability to work quickly and accurately while under pressure.

In the workplace you often have several tasks that need to be completed by a deadline. While your time-management skills will enable you to meet those deadlines, what happens when things start to go wrong, or your tasks continue to pile up? That’s when you can utilize your experience from preparing 200 coffee orders an hour during a Monday morning rush. Experiences like these develop your efficiency and ability to think on your feet.


While you may think that working in retail and food service is far from professional, you’d be surprised at how many contributing factors are incorporated into those positions. For instance, abiding by a dress code. Showing up to work every day looking put together and in uniform is an important part of presenting yourself in a professional manner. Clocking in and out for shifts trains you to be punctual, which is another key aspect of being professional.

In addition, you’re expected to continue performing your job duties even when no one is watching. Being able to hold yourself accountable while putting your best foot forward at all times is a great way to showcase your professionalism.

Effective communication

Communicating effectively in the workplace is vital to the success of any organization, including food and retail. For example, how you manage a situation if a coworker is behaving outside of the company’s guidelines can be challenging. However, the ability to effectively and respectfully communicate about delicate topics like these is a beneficial skill to possess.

Effective communication doesn’t only happen with supervisors. These abilities are also exercised every time you assist a customer, whether you’re repeating an order back to them to ensure you understood or asking questions to better assist. Speaking with a customer who is unhappy while remaining calm and respectful is another valuable skill. There will always be times when you need to communicate, so seeing that you’ve been able to practice this in a part-time role is likely to please hiring managers.

Business and marketing awareness

If you’ve only ever had jobs in food or retail, you may think you lack the business experience you need to secure an internship. However, if you view your part-time job in the right way, there’s more business experience in front of you than you think:

  • Scheduling: Ask your manager if you can help create the weekly employee schedule. This shows you’re good at organizing, managing and juggling the preferences of each employee as well as those of the business.
  • Social media: Does the restaurant or store you work for have a social media presence? If not, sit down with your manager and see what they think of creating one! If it’s something you’re interested in, ask to lead the charge or assist any efforts that are currently taking place.
  • Bookkeeping: See if you can help place orders with suppliers or be trusted enough to help with payroll. These are administrative tasks that can translate into the corporate world.

Problem solving

No matter what job you’ve had – even that fifth grade lemonade stand – it’s likely you’ve had to work through some sort of issue. In the moment, helping a customer through a wrong order may not feel like something that matters in the corporate world, but on-your-feet thinking is a key skill. On any given day, you can be thrown curveballs from individuals both inside and outside your organization, and the best employees are those who can handle them quickly and professionally.

Customer service

Food and retail jobs are often labeled as customer service roles, but you may be surprised to hear that most corporate jobs fall into this same category. If you’re in sales, you’re probably dealing with customers frequently. In marketing, your operational leaders and sales teams may technically be your customers. Human resources? Your customer is probably your own internal team. Before you get too excited about being released from those customer-facing roles, just know that you’ll be flexing those muscles in any corporate setting.

Final thoughts

If you’re feeling down about not having enough real-world business experience, remember that part-time roles have armed you with the skills and experiences necessary for your next opportunity. Take a look at your LinkedIn profile and résumé, and try to integrate some of the skills highlighted here. Your experience is what you make it … so make it worth it!


by Brianna Durante and Sydney Olszewski 

Charles Aris Executive Search

charles aris, college job, Executive Search, InterSearch, InterSearch Worldwide, skills

Skills you gain from a typical college job without realizing

4 min

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