7 Student Jobs that Build Business Experience
By Will Erstad on 10/14/2014
Every day college graduates deal with a truly frustrating phenomenon in their job search—“entry-level” positions that require anywhere from one to five years of experience. Their first instinct might be to throw their hands up in defeat, but there are ways to make these seemingly impossible experience requirements seem a little more reasonable.
The most common solution offered up by experts is to seek out as many relevant internships as possible. But what do you do if you can’t afford to take an unpaid internship, or if there just aren’t many opportunities near you? You make the most out of the experience you do have. It may not seem obvious, but the experience you’ve earned in relatively simple jobs can still be relevant to positions more closely related to your desired field of study.
Not convinced? To help give you an idea of how this works, we’ve listed seven jobs you may have already held or might consider in the future and asked Rasmussen College career services advisor Amy Ites how the experience from these jobs can help in a business career.
Experience-building student jobs
Truthfully, the title of receptionist can be pretty misleading. While many might think you just answer phones and greet customers, you’re actually what make the office run like a well-oiled machine. You’ve learned how to mail packages that needed to be sent yesterday, organize office parties and find times to schedule meetings with way too many attendees and their conflicting schedules. Ites says the strong organizational skills required of a receptionist are a great fit for project management work, where nearly everything you do is on a timeline.
“Saying that you were just a cashier or just answered the phone is lazy. Don’t get stuck on the job title—you have to dig into the details of the position and really sell your experience.”
Cashiers do more than just push buttons and make change—for many businesses, they are one of the main points of contact. In addition to some of the basic accountancy skills you use every day while ensuring your register tally is accurate, your customer service skills are honed in these positions. If you know how to handle a customer melting down over an expired 15 cent coupon, you’re likely better prepared to handle the more rational issues you’ll have to deal with in other client-facing roles. Ites says there’s also the potential to develop sales experience, as many cashiers are tasked with upselling store credit cards or warranties.
3. Golf caddy
Spending a summer lugging around golf clubs and raking bunkers might not seem like it applies to a business career, but there’s more to it than you think. As a caddy you earn your tips by providing good service and advice to some very successful people. Because of this, you learn very quickly how to interact with executive-level clients—something very valuable for sales positions.
“Learning to handle the strong personalities that come with people who have the money to golf regularly is a great confidence builder,” Ites says. “Not only that, you learn important communication skills and even have an opportunity to network with some very successful people.”
4. Retail sales
“Sales is sales, and whether it is retail or something else it takes social skills,” Ites says. “You still have to know your product and know how to highlight its benefits as well.”
Selling cellphone plans or appliances may not be as glamorous as working in pharmaceutical sales, but the experienced earned in these positions can be valuable. You already understand the importance of knowing your product, and likely have picked up on the tell-tale signs of whether a potential customer is interested or not.
“Sales is sales, and whether it is retail or something else it takes social skills. You still have to know your product and know how to highlight its benefits as well.”
5. Tax preparer
It’s really not a stretch to see how tax preparation experience can be valuable in a business career—after all, a large portion of accounting work involves managing taxes. During the busy tax season, large tax preparation companies hire thousands of seasonal tax preparers. These jobs are a great fit for students as they give plenty of exposure to the complexities of navigating the tax code while also putting you in a client-facing position.
6. Customer service representative
“As a customer service rep you learn how to get past the emotion of a situation and you become a master problem solver,” Ites says. “That’s an excellent skill for anyone looking to work in management or sales.”
Work as a customer service rep is a lot like being a lightning rod—you act as a focal point for customers to focus their energy on. It can be an incredibly tough job, but your experience will make you a strong mediator who understands the give-and-take of conflict resolution within a business setting.
7. Family-owned small business employee
“Working at a family-business or very small company gives you a sense of ownership and gives you a lot of opportunities to show your initiative,” Ites says.
Working for a small family business often results in you getting exposure to a variety of business areas. Whether it’s weighing on in the design of a new promotional flyer or taking inventory of a store, there are many experiences working for a mom and pop shop can provide.
Other ways to build experience
Don’t give up if you’ve racked your brain thinking of prior jobs and still don’t feel like you have much in terms of relevant experience. You can always help your resume with volunteer experience. Ites says the ideal volunteer work is closely related to your chosen field, but even donating your time to an unrelated cause you care about can reflect positively on you. It also doesn’t have to be a ton of time—sometimes just a little volunteer work can be the “tiebreaker” between otherwise equal candidates.
Don’t sell yourself short
Your resume might not have a lengthy list of work experience, but it is important to get the most out of the experience you do have.
“Saying that you were just a cashier or just answered the phone is lazy,” Ites says. “Don’t get stuck on the job title—you have to dig into the details of the position and really sell your experience.”
Get creative and think back to everything you’ve done in previous jobs and how it could potentially be applied to your desired job. You may have more relevant experience than you think! Couple that experience with a business degree and you’re much closer to launching your dream career than you ever imagined.