Students – Do You Feel Like Your Job is Hurting Your Career?

By Francine Fabricant

Do you have a part-time or full-time job that bears little resemblance to the career you really want?  If you feel like your work-study balancing act is making it hard to build skills, experience, and references that will help you build your career after you graduate, there is a lot you can do on the job and in the classroom to prepare for your future.

Here are some tips that can help you turn your job into a career-building experience.

Identify skills you want to develop.  Decide which skills you are motivated to build and then  look for ways you could build them in your current experiences. For instance, if you work in a retail store and have an interest in a helping career, like social work or education, explore opportunities to become more involved in customer service, handling complaints, or training others.  These person-to-person interactions will show evidence of helping skills such as listening, understanding, teaching, and communicating.

Build mentor relationships at work.  Mentors in any field can offer guidance, advice, advocacy, and help you increase your network.  Consider the skills of potential mentors and what you can learn.  Then, seek out ways to add value to your mentors, offering your assistance and expressing interest in what they do.  For example, if you work in food service, a supervisor who serves in management will likely have recognized skills in such areas as leadership, motivation, business, data collection, and organization.  These are highly transferable skills, and a mentor can help you look for ways to build skills that may be outside your typical responsibilities and transferable to a range of career fields.

Take your job seriously.  All work environments want self-starters who work hard and care.  To your employer, this is a business, and your contribution matters!   Taking the initiative to ask for new projects, working harder than your job requires, showing up on time, and being courteous to colleagues, are just some of the ways you can demonstrate your professionalism.  This will impact your references, and help you gain more responsibilities on the job.

Are you balancing work and school as you build your career? Take a look at what other students are doing by checking out this infographic on The Work-Study Balancing Act and tell us more about the challenges you are facing or how you are making your balancing act work for you!