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Resume tips: How to make your menial summer job sound great

First of all, congratulations on landing a summer job. In today's economy, they're pretty impressive. Still, if all work is honorable, why does your summer job feel like a waste of time? Running a weed eater or busing filthy tables isn't exactly exciting--especially when your friends are at the beach. But don't fret. A job is what you make of it--and how you present it on your resume.

Whatever you do, don't lie. Every recruiter knows that selling magazines door-to-door is NOT "communications management" or "global networking." However, it does reflect experience in outside sales, building leads, closing deals and developing customer relationships. If you wait tables during the summer and were recognized for having the most "upsells," be sure to mention it. Never underestimate the value of sales experience on your resume: Sales translate to money in the marketplace.

Jobs, industries and common skills

Between 2008 and 2018, the U.S. Department of Labor predicts the following new job growth:

  • 4 million in health care
  • 2.6 million in technical and professional services
  • 1.6 million in education
  • 1.4 million in administrative support
  • 800,000 in dining and hospitality
  • 600,000 in retail
  • 300,000 in business and finance
  • 118,000 in information sciences

 

If you're interested in a career in any of these sectors, you can identify applicable skills and experiences from even the most absurd summer job. They're easy to add to a resume without puffing things up.

These 5 skills sets apply to all of the above professions and are key to building your resume:

  1. Communication skills: Employers want to see your aptitude and comfort level in communicating with co-workers and customers. Waitresses, office assistants, call-center workers, cash-register operators and landscapers, all have interactions with customers. Cite your experience dealing with the public, how you solved problems, built sales or handled money. Add these words to your resume: increased, built, developed.

  2.  Technical skills: You're bound to be in front of a computer sometime. Operating software used for sales, office support, setting appointments--even keeping track of kids at a summer camp--involves the use of technology. Building with construction tools, landscaping with gardening equipment, changing oil, and taking a person's blood pressure require technical aptitude. Add these words to your resume: learned, mastered, operated.

     
  3. Team and leadership skills: If you cared about your job, you developed the necessary skills to work well with others, more efficiently. Did you find more effective ways to do your job and earn a nod from your employer? If so, mention it. Add these words to your resume: led, built, managed, achieved.

  4. Research and problem-solving skills: Were you asked to crunch numbers, find solutions to problems, gather or analyze data? Did you reconcile cash drawers and find missing paperwork? Add these words to your resume: developed, increased, built, added, solved or discovered.

  5. Ingenuity and creativity: At some point during the summer, maybe your employer proclaimed that "You rock!" Perhaps you added flair to your service and manner of speaking with customers. Add these words to your resume: enhanced, created or initiated.

Remember, snowballing a recruiter can easily get you avalanched; and showing up on time is more of an expectation than an asset. So review your skills realistically and shape them into language that is both honest and skills-centric. That's how you turn any summer job into a career-building asset.

Don't forget to include skills and experience gained from unpaid internships and volunteer work. Employers want to see initiative, willingness and commitment. When you're young, working for free for a cause that you're passionate about can open doors to opportunities of which you've only dreamt. Whatever you do this summer - give it all you've got.

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