The following is a guest post by Gary Ryan, founder of Organisations That Matter. Edited by Brenda Bernstein, The Essay Expert.
Summer vacations (or “holiday seasons” as they say Down Under), are terrific for many reasons. They present an opportunity to catch up with friends and family as well as to relax. For many students, summer means a chance to earn money and/or volunteer (especially if you aren’t taking extra classes).
Unfortunately, many students don’t take full advantage of their holiday work. Too often I hear things like, “I’m just a check-out operator,” or “I just work at a café,” or “I just provide meals to homeless people.” There is no such thing as “just” a part time job—not if you are prepared to consider the employability skills that you are developing while doing your work! Below is a short list of ten employability skills that part time / volunteer work develops:
1. Communication skills
2. Problem solving skills
5. Technology skills
6. Planning and organizing skills
7. Service excellence skills
8. Leadership skills
9. Learning skills
10. Self-management skills
Let’s look at some examples of how you might develop these skills:
If you communicate with your boss, other team members and/or the general public, then you have the opportunity to develop communication skills. Here’s a tip: Good communicators are good listeners … which also means that you are good at asking questions. So, develop your questioning skills and your communication skills will skyrocket!
2. Problem solving
Problems occur all the time. In every job. A computer won’t work. Another staff member didn’t turn up for their shift. The delivery hasn’t arrived and customers are waiting for their orders. The list goes on. Each of these examples is a wonderful opportunity for you to consciously practice your problem solving skills. Not only that, but you can create a bank of stories about how you solve problems. Can you imagine any of your future employers not wanting a problem solver? Neither can I!
Showing initiative is doing something helpful without having been asked. Every time you see that something could go wrong (like someone slipping on a banana peel) and you take action to stop that from happening (like picking up the banana peel) you are showing initiative. Opportunities to demonstrate initiative are everywhere. Keep your eye out for them and grasp them with both hands when they pop up. They also create great stories that can be used in interviews.
There is hardly a job that exists that does not involve teamwork. Even if you work alone, you are probably still part of a team. Imagine an interview when you are asked about your experience of working in teams. If you’ve covered a shift for a teammate, taught someone something, or helped out in some other way, you will have a great answer to this question!
Technology skills don’t just include using electronic devices such as computers and scanners. Using technology can mean writing on whiteboards, driving forklifts (providing you have a license) and whatever else you have to use to do your job. If you volunteer planting trees, the shovels, picks and other tools that you use are all forms of technology. By having a range of stories about your technological capacity, you can demonstrate your adaptability and ability to learn quickly. Most students don’t even think about these things as being relevant to their future. But, they are!
6. Planning and organizing
In whatever work you are doing, show up on time and meet your deadlines. Employers expect it. Practice it and practice it now.
For those of you who have responsibility for a team or other staff, how do you treat the people you lead? What are your mental models about leadership? How are your personal values reflected in how you lead? Conscious thought about these questions can create wonderful leadership experiences for you as well as the opportunity to make relatively “safe” mistakes. Think about your personal theory about formal leadership. Try it out. See if it works. Learn how to lead by doing it when the opportunity arises.
Part time and volunteer work always involves learning one or more of the following:
• technical skills
• policies and procedures
• cash management processes
• customer service procedures
• people’s names
• how to work in a team
• how to communicate the company mission / vision
This list could go on. The point is, notice what you have to learn to do your job. You’ll have a mountain of examples to share in an interview!
9. Service excellence
No job is worth its salt if you aren’t able to practice developing your service excellence skills. Quite simply, service excellence is like oxygen. In any job, we can’t live without it. The simplest and best practice to adopt is, “Everyone is my customer: my boss, my colleagues and my customers.” If you wouldn’t choose to be a customer of yourself, then you need to improve your skills in this area or you will likely “suffocate” your career.
In order to consciously practice the above skills you have to practice self-management. You will have all had a challenging on-the-job experience. How did you handle it? How did you overcome any negative experiences? Challenges at work require a significant amount of positive self-talk, time management, problem solving and communication skills. Develop them now!
Part-time and volunteer work are goldmines as far as developing your employability skills. Take full advantage of your opportunities. The gold in this sense will come in the future when you get the job that you really want. So, enjoy your time off this “holiday season”—and make it an even more valuable summer by developing yourself in the workplace!
Gary Ryan is the Founder of Organisations That Matter, author of What Really Matters For Young Professionals! and creator of the Yes For Success online platform for creating and executing a life of balance and personal success!