For the third year in a row, Bustle's Upstart Awards are honoring young women who are doing incredible things in the realms of business, STEM, fashion and beauty, the arts, philanthropy, and beyond. Want to be an Upstarts honoree one day? Read on for career tips, insights, and inspiration to help get you there.
If you’re one of the many college students balancing coursework with the astronomical cost of secondary education (literally unreal), odds are, you’ve probably got a part-time job. When I was in college, I kept busy by writing for the student newspaper, working as a camp counselor in the summertime, working for the university as a student recruiter, and working at a restaurant. Between the four gigs, I had made enough money to help offset the costs of my education, and I also picked up some valuable skills along the way. If you’re trying to parlay your college side job into a post-grad offer, you’re probably wondering about how to make your college part-time job look impressive. Thankfully, whether you’re serving pizza or writing new student policies, there are plenty of ways to make your college job look legit.
If you’re still in college, consider this a to-do list for you. But even if you’ve already walked across the graduation stage and ventured into adulthood (welcome, grasshopper), you can still spin your previous roles into relevant experience if you’re newly on the job hunt. These tricks are especially useful for padding a resume when you don’t have much professional experience. And let’s be real: at 22, who does?
Whether you’re a writer, designer, organizer, entrepreneur, or pre-law student, keep a repository of all your major case studies and projects online so you can share it when you’re applying for jobs. Submitting work samples is standard practice for most roles, as employers generally want to see that you can actually do the work before giving you a job.
Don’t have any real-world client experience? Consider adding projects you worked on in school to the mix. And think outside the box here: if you’re a visual artist and your boss let you paint a mural on the side of the office, put this on your site. Been managing a newsletter at school? Give it some real estate on your website! You have to start somewhere, and side projects count.
Regardless of the role you held, keep in touch with your managers and establish a professional, friendly relationship with them. Make it a point to keep them in the loop on roles you’re gunning for, and drop them a line every few months or so to let them know you’re still around. Connect with them on LinkedIn and see if they’ll endorse you, too. And, of course, see if they’re comfortable writing a letter of recommendation for you to keep on file and send along with job applications.
When it comes to putting college work on your resume, it might be tempting to simply list off the duties you held in the position. Instead, a good rule of thumb is to focus on the most valuable aspects of the work, and any relevant leadership roles or responsibilities you were given. Were you a team leader? Did you get promoted to manager? Were you the head of a certain function, department, or project? If so, how soon after starting were you given the promotion? Look for particular areas of responsibility and highlight them from a people operations standpoint. It shows hiring managers that you can handle responsibility, and that you don’t shy away from leading others.
Did you bring new ideas to the table? Were you responsible for implementing a social media or content strategy? Did you help drive actionable sales or cost efficiencies? Look for your biggest wins, throw some biz blab on them (optimized, strategized, integrated, migrated, etc.), and call them out in bullet points. You want to make it easy for hiring managers to see that you can deliver a return on their investment (ROI) in you, so to say, so put your biggest contributions at the top of the list.
Even if you have a long list of previous roles — perhaps even a few dead stints in between when you stepped away from work to focus on classes — structure your resume in a way that highlights your most relevant and impressive contributions. There’s no rule that you have to put everything you’ve ever done on your resume, and you’re better off keeping only the serious work and leaving off the fluff. You can account for any gaps in experience during the interview. And of course, read the job posting and look for opportunities to work its wording into your own resume and cover letter.
Most importantly, stop thinking of your past experience as "a college side job." If you did work you’re proud of, own it! There’s nothing more valuable than a young, hungry employee with tons of great ideas and a strong work ethic. If you can find a way to highlight these skills in your work, you’ll be golden.