You Have More Experience Than You Think (Part II)

Continuing on my last post, here are eight more examples of experience that “counts” in your job search. Stay tuned for my final list, covering personal interests and experiences, on Monday.

Part II: Work and Extracurricular Experience

1. Sports. Even if you aren’t a star athlete, your participation in an organized sport (varsity, JV, club level or just for fun) is valuable. An employee who is a “team player” and works well with others can move mountains in the workplace. Athletic experience builds your competitive nature, increases your level of confidence and gives you strong leadership skills. Remember to consider these lessons and experiences when discussing your skills and abilities in a job interview.

2. Clubs and organizations. From French club to student government, be sure to note your involvement in organized group activities. Make special note of any leadership roles that involved coordinating events, budgeting or acting as liaison among group members, faculty and staff. Also take some time to think about club projects you managed from beginning to end — employers will correlate these to workplace project management skills.

3. Greek life. Aside from the toga parties (which employers definitely don’t want to know about), Greek organizations provide some valuable experience for the working world. Many Greek organizations place significant value on networking events, fundraisers and recruitment. If you held a direct leadership role, planned events or coordinated publicity for your fraternity or sorority, you should share these achievements with potential employers. Keep in mind that there are some lingering stereotypes from Animal House and the like, so proceed with caution.

4. The arts. Whether you’re involved in art, music, dance or theater, your performance skills and the self-confidence it takes to share your talents in front of an audience are very attractive to an employer. Don’t be shy about touting your creative accomplishments, even in a serious corporate setting.

5. Entrepreneurship. Did you start a business, activity or club? Have you participated in a family business? Whether it’s been a success or struggle in today’s economy, the lessons you’ve learned from taking initiative and building your own group or company are worthy of mention. Be able to speak of your motivation to become an entrepreneur and the ups and downs you faced throughout the process.

6. Volunteer experience. Did you tutor peers at your school, help manage a food drive or give your time to an elderly community? Whether you’ve spent one week, one month or one year volunteering, you have gained skills, built relationships and experienced struggles and triumphs that are valuable to an employer. Include these experiences on your resume and discuss them in your professional conversations.

7. Part-time work. Have you worked in retail, at a restaurant or behind the snack bar at your neighborhood pool? Even telemarketing, babysitting, mowing the lawn and dog walking can demonstrate hard work, dedication, organization and persistence — qualities that all employers want and need. When you discuss these work experiences, however, it’s up to you to point out how they are relevant to jobs you are seeking now. Give serious thought to what your part-time work has taught you and how it’s contributed to your skill set.

8. Campaigning and activism. Were you active in the 2008 presidential election? Have you written letters, made phone calls or found other ways to speak out about the causes you support? If you’ve shown dedication to a cause or movement, it can be smart to share this in a job interview. Keep in mind that politics and certain issues are a source of controversy, though, so focus more on explaining your involvement and the specific abilities you developed rather than trying to convert a recruiter to your cause or point of view.

Remember to check back on Monday for Part III!

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Lindsey is a globally recognized career and workplace expert and the leading voice on generational diversity. She has spoken for more than 300 audiences including Google, Goldman Sachs, Estee Lauder, Stanford and Wharton. Lindsey is the author of four career and workplace advice books, and her insights have appeared in media outlets including The TODAY Show, CNBC, NPR, the Harvard Business Review and the Wall Street Journal.


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