by Lisa Kollar
I recently found myself in a quandary on where I truly stand on the relevancy of summer employment. This happened after a career advisor shared a recent discussion she had with a company recruiter about a student’s employment experience as a lifeguard. The recruiter recommended removing the lifeguarding experience from the resume. Although I can respect the difference of opinions, it was the fact that the recruiter found no value in having the experience listed on the student’s resume that bothered me the most. The conversation sparked my interest in exploring others’ views on summer and other unrelated work experiences and coming to a conclusion.
To dive in, I wanted to share a conversation I had with an ERAU alumnus who actually became a professional lifeguard. In our discussion about the topic, the person shared that being a lifeguard was more than someone who sat all day, had a great tan, or had no problem wearing a bathing suit. It required dedicated people who were willing to take others’ lives in their hands, and they completed rigorous training and physical tests that tested their limits. Lifeguards had to remain engaged throughout their shifts, have the ability to forecast potential situations and interact with the public and many personality types from a variety of organizations. Lifeguarding, often thought of as just summer employment, gave the participants multiple and valuable skill sets that could translate into many industries.
After the conversation and after conducting more research on the topic of the value of summer employment, I came to understand and value these general professional and soft-skills building experiences. I also couldn’t help feeling sad that an employer would rule out such experience, thus potentially negating candidates’ skills and accomplishments. Why exclude such transferrable traits gained through summer work experiences? Wouldn’t any entry-level hiring manager seek a candidate with a strong work ethic, the ability to communicate with people, and time management skills, to name a few? Combine these general work accomplishments with strong academic preparedness from a reputable institution, and I’m sure the candidate will be a valued asset to an organization. As a professional developer and mentor to the career-minded, I’m not discounting the value of relevant experience, but I have found that students who have had ANY kind of job throughout their college careers can be equally successful.
Still feeling perplexed a bit even after confirming where I stood on the subject, I finally identified the disconnect between an employer finding value in summer employment and a recruiter who did not see it. The issue seems to come from a person’s ability to market his or her skills on the resume, via networking and during an interview. A student who communicates and explains how his or her previous experiences relate to the job is much more likely to have an employer who understands the value of his or her summer or part-time jobs.
So here’s my advice to anyone with work experiences that may not relate exactly to the job being pursued. Throughout your summer work experience, make note of every time you took initiative, volunteered, worked overtime, went above and beyond for a customer, took on another responsibility, or got recognition for doing a great job. You then want to review these notes and recount the experiences, asking yourself what transferrable skills can be listed on your resume and explained in an interview for any position. After you have found a position you desire, review the job description to identify areas where you can apply any of these transferrable skills and how you can share this during an interview.
In my research, I was able to talk with other recruiters and identify students who had successfully accomplished this, which definitely reinforces that any work experience can be valuable. So we finish with answering the question, “Is my summer experience worth sharing?” My answer is…YES. But really take the time to identify the experiences and skills gained through the job and how it can transfer to your professional career. Then it’s all about how you deliver it to the recruiter!
Lisa Scott Kollar is the Executive Director, Career Services. She completed B.S. and M.S.A. degrees from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and has her C-MEL-I. Lisa has over eighteen years of management experience with fourteen years of experience in higher education leadership roles. She is consistently successful in strategic planning and marketing for Embry-Riddle’s comprehensive Career Services.