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How to List Summer Job Skills on Your Resume

Maybe your summer job isn’t an obvious stepping-stone toward your dream career. That’s OK—here’s how to turn your experience into marketable skills.

Throughout college you’ll likely hold a number of jobs, in the summer and also during the school year. Maybe you’re working toward your tuition bill. Or you’re earning some pocket change so you can start flexing your financial independence. Whatever the gig—sales intern or stockroom person—you’re probably not considering it for star billing on your resume. But maybe you should.

All jobs matter, as they contribute to your work experience. And all job responsibilities can be recast as skills important to future employers. The trick is to know how to frame your summer gigs—no matter how menial or glamour-free—into big-picture accomplishments.

“Don’t think about your job from your own vantage point,” advises Denver-based career coach Jenn DeWall, who specializes in working with millennials and young professionals. “Instead, think about how a CEO would value your job and why it matters. Think about what your actions achieved for the company.”

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Few of us snag the perfect job right away. But take heart: Amazon founder Jeff Bezos was once a fry cook and a camp counselor. Former president Barack Obama scooped ice cream. Comedian Amy Poehler did, too. And before she was doing impressions on SNL, actress Melissa McCarthy was a Starbucks barista.

So whether you’re fetching coffee or flipping burgers, here’s how to translate your experience into bullet points on your resume.

Your job: barista

You’re doing more than providing caffeine to those in need. As a barista, you’re on the front lines of service delivery. You’re reacting quickly to requests. You’re exhibiting stamina—hours on your feet is tough!—and you’re advising patrons who might not know a latte from a macchiato. “You’re engaging in customer service, you’re working on a team, and you’re educating people,” says Colorado-based career coach Anne Angerman, who focuses on recent graduates.

Showcase these skills:

  • Self-starter with great self-management skills
  • Effectively deals with diverse populations
  • Encourages client relationships

Your job: bartender or waiter

OK, you’re mixing drinks and delivering food. But think about how hard it is to memorize those recipes and orders. It requires specialized training and quick thinking. It also requires conversation skills; your tips might depend on it. And as the first person a patron encounters when walking in the door or settling in for dinner, you’re a company ambassador, too. “You’ve honed people skills and listening skills,” Angerman says.

Showcase these skills:

  • Excellent communication and listening skills
  • Multitasking
  • Adaptable, flexible, comfortable working under pressure

Your job: intern

So you’re working in an office—maybe even the office of your dreams—but you’re answering mail for the CEO. In situations like this, “Think in terms of how to show growth,” DeWall says. “What about the industry did you not know at the beginning that you know now?” Internships offer a firsthand glimpse at how a company truly functions, so accentuate this opportunity on a resume and in conversation: “Now you have experience watching a company’s operations. You know how to support their brand and their mission. You were doing research,” DeWall says.

It also helps to quantify results: Maybe you reached out to 100 new customers, or welcomed 1,000 attendees at a conference, or organized 10 company dinners. Include this on your resume.

Showcase these skills:

  • Organized 10 company dinners
  • Reached out to 100 new customers to introduce the brand
  • Volunteered to help welcome 1,000 attendees to conference
  • “Can-do” attitude, always happy to pitch in

Your job: lifeguard

You’re not working on your tan; you’re potentially saving lives, which requires attentiveness, quick thinking, and concentration. It also requires bravery and decisiveness, as well as the ability to enforce rules when necessary. These are gems in the corporate world: Interviewers often ask about a moment of decisiveness or courage.

One tip: In a job such as this, where you’re reacting quickly without much time for reflection, it helps to make a “bucket list” of accomplishments at day’s end, says DeWall. Refer to it when you need a confidence boost.

Showcase these skills:

  • Decisive, can think on my feet
  • Reliable, comfortable with responsibility
  • Excellent communication and interpersonal skills

Your job: nanny

Maybe you love children and dream of a career in education, but you’re packing lunches and taking kids to the pool. Consider the life skills you develop while caring for little people. You need to be responsible, flexible (the child who loves dance one day might prefer soccer the next), and creative to keep those “I’m bored!” whines at bay. You’re also scoring crucial one-on-one time with an employer, caring for their most precious cargo: their kids. “You’re using keen observational skills to give targeted feedback to parents every day,” says Angerman.

Showcase these skills:

  • Problem solver
  • Creative thinker
  • Comfortable supervising and mentoring/managing

When you’re composing a resume and reflecting back on your various (and often random) summer jobs, think about the bigger picture: Waiting tables means you thrive under pressure and are able to manage stressful, challenging situations. As a camp counselor, you demonstrated leadership abilities and conflict resolution skills, as well as a love of outdoor activities! Tutoring other students required evaluating their abilities, establishing a workflow, and setting and meeting goals.

Think about what made you feel accomplished and proud, and leverage those skills to stand out to future employers.

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