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Why Part-Time and Summer Jobs Can Matter

April 6, 2011

By: Joe Mayne, St. Cloud State

In resumes, interviews, and in the search for references, college students and new graduates often overlook the part-time experience they’ve had in the past. “It wasn’t a real job…” they think, “so there’s no sense in mentioning it when I’m trying to make a start on a serious career.”

Sometimes, that can be a big mistake.

As with your professional memberships and academic record, your performance at a part-time job might not tell a prospective employer a whole lot about what kind of employee you are going to be… but that’s not the same as saying it won’t tell them anything at all. As I’m always trying to help young people to understand, attitude is the one thing recruiters really want – and the toughest part of the equation to figure out.

Interviewers already know you are going to be on your best behavior when they sit down to meet you. In essence, they might be seeing you on your very best day; for all they know, you might not ever be on time, well dressed, or smiling with a firm handshake ever again, if they bring you in as an employee. They want to think you are going to be a good hire, but they just can’t be sure.

One way they can get a strong clue, however, is through a recommendation from a former employer. If someone who owns a fast food restaurant, retail shop, or landscaping service goes out of their way to say you were the best worker they ever had, or that they are sure you will go on to great things in life, that carries more weight than you might expect. It tells a recruiter that not only were you willing to work hard, but you did so at a time when you weren’t being paid a lot, and a lot of your friends and colleagues probably weren’t making the same kind of effort. You just identified yourself as exactly the type of young man or woman they might want work at their company.

It’s true that few people are going to hire you based on the recommendation of a former part-time employer. But when it comes to tipping the scales in your favor, you should take advantage of every edge you can find, and having a strong recommendation from a former employer is a great one to have.

Editor’s Note: Leadership Foundation Trustee Joe Mayne is a veteran recruiter and professional speaker. Over the past 15 years, he’s interviewed thousands of candidates, examined countless resumes, and helped students from hundreds of campuses find great jobs. He is a frequent presenter at Delta Sigma Pi workshops, including LEAD events and Grand Chapter Congress. Learn more about him and view other useful career search topics at

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