It’s no secret that the job market is very competitive right now, so we won’t whisper about it. In today’s tough environment, it can be especially difficult to find a job or internship opening that matches your ultimate career goals. But you should try to take advantage of every opportunity you can find. For example, you might want to work in advertising, yet you find yourself interning at your neighbor’s law office for the semester. Or, you might wind up working even further from your career goals at a local restaurant. Just because it’s not your dream job, doesn’t mean the skills you learn won’t transfer to your ideal role. It’s all about having a positive mentality and leveraging the job skills you learn along the way. We’ve compiled some tips to help you showcase your job skills in the best light:

Think of the big picture: When you’re waiting tables for tourists at a chain restaurant, you might not see how this could possibly help you in the world of advertising. But it does! If you’re planning to work for an advertising agency, keeping the customer satisfied is key. Working in any customer-service related field, such as serving at a restaurant, will better prepare you for working with advertising clients in the future. This approach can work for any type of job-related skill or situation – you need only to think of learning a skill set in general terms, then adapt and apply the specifics of what you learned to a future role.

Emphasize common traits: While every office or work environment is different, there are always going to be similarities. Did you work with a team? Manage other workers or projects? Handle tasks for executive leadership? Whatever you were doing, think about how and why it matters to the new hiring manager. For example, if you were visible to leadership, emphasize that you are comfortable dealing with people on every level within the company, and you get along well with others. These are all traits that any company would love to have in a future employee.

Highlight the positives: Sure, a job at the grocery store may not seem like it would help you land a corporate job right away, but think about what your work there does show. Were you reliable and always on time for your shift? Did you work hard, complete tasks, and assist customers? All these are fantastic things that show your willingness to work hard, even if your work experience isn’t technically related. A good reference from an employer can go a long way, so be sure to work hard, impress your boss, and reap the benefits.

While many employers are looking for industry-specific experience, if you’re going after entry-level positions, you have an opportunity to show them that your non-industry experience is still relevant. You just have to present it in a way that allows employers to see the value you bring to the table. At Education at Work, the college students we hire to fill our part-time customer service jobs will not all end up working in the call center industry after graduation. But our student-employees understand the value these positions offer, regardless of their college majors or future career goals. This value includes learning critical job skills, such as communication skills, time management, critical thinking and analysis, and working directly with our client’s customers to help them problem solve, all of which are applicable to any career path. When you’re searching out job or internship opportunities in college, don’t get too inundated in the details of the job or its industry. Instead, look for the best opportunity that will help you learn critical job skills that are applicable to your desired career path.

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