Why side-jobs matter

A little while ago I gave a workshop about LinkedIn. One student told me they felt insecure because they never did anything noteworthy to put on their LinkedIn and that others students always had better or more important things on their CV.

Well, I beg to differ. Most of the time, students feel that their work or extracurricular activities do not matter, but in truth, they do! Alright, most side-jobs did not involve you changing the world or curing cancer, but it does add value to your CV. This student is not alone in their question. Having worked at the Career Services for one-and-a-half years now, this is a question almost every student asks during a CV-check:

‘Do I have to put all those side-jobs on my CV? Are they relevant anyway?’

Now, I am not saying that you should list all those little jobs you did in summers or in free afternoons at supermarkets, sports club or you parents’/uncle’s/grandma’s company. If you have space on your CV left I often advise to combine the most important of them in some way like this:

2008–2013: Various jobs at supermarket, sports club and hotels 
- Companies such as Supermarket X, Hotel Y and Sports Club Z
- Acquired skills: 
* Working in a team
 * Brand Analysis
 * Customer Care

While in this case you do not mention the jobs separately it does not mean these side-jobs are irrelevant or unimportant. During job-interviews or networking events it happens quite often that I talk more about my side-jobs than my studies or my most recent projects or jobs. It is the side-jobs that help me illustrate to people that I can and will work hard. It shows I am able to work next to my studies, why my average grade is not top-level and why my studies have taken a little bit longer.

You can divide side-jobs in two basic categories. The first category contains those jobs you take simply because you need the money. I have had quite a few of these. But I cannot deny I had fun and grew my professional network. Furthermore, working hard for a company in a field that you have zero interest in shows a strong work ethic. Working as a waitress at a busy restaurant on the beach taught me to keep my head cool and prioritise tasks. Spending hours as a sales-assistant in a cold booth at a Christmas fair helped me become more patient. Whatever you might have done in the past, there is always something to gain from it. Soft skills (personal attributes that help someone interact with people in an effective manner) are barely learned when studying or spending time alone. You learn them out there, on the (side-)job.

The second category includes the side-jobs that helped you acquire skills or experience that you need to fulfil your ambitions and dream career. As I go along in my studies my ambitions are slowly becoming clearer. It is also becoming more evident what sort of work I definitely do not want to do (admittedly, also by doing certain side-jobs…). So, when working I try to define what activities and tasks help me attain knowledge for things I want to do later. Working as a receptionist in a hotel I learned how to make people feel welcome, how to handle complaints and I had my first experience of handling a huge administration. These are all relevant skills for starting my own company in the future. When talking to potential future employers about side-jobs I can add more credibility to my CV. It shows that I know the direction I want to go in and that I am actively trying to define and learn the skills I need.

My take-away for you is this:
- Evaluate the jobs you have done in the past. What skills did you gain from them? What did you like and what did you hate? Knowing what you do not like helps in finding what you do like to do.
- Think about how you can highlight skills that you have not gained through your studies, but through your ‘unimportant’ experience.
-Do not be insecure about what you have done. Our most valuable thing to spend is time. Each job, project or activity that you did will add to you as a person. Side-jobs matter.
This blog was written by Rosanne van Bodegom.
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advice about the student life and finding your dream job.