You Have More Experience Than You Think (Part III)

Today I’m pleased to share my third and final post on all the types of experience you have that you might not be giving yourself credit for. Make sure to read part one and part two. I hope you find this valuable, and please share any additional suggestions in the Comments!

Part III: Personal Interests and Experiences

1. Investing. Have you put away money since your tenth birthday and watched your savings grow significantly? Are you active in trading and investing through your E*TRADE account? Do you currently manage your finances beyond balancing your checkbook? Since many high school and college students don’t manage their own money, your experience and knowledge could stand out.

2. Family business. If you’ve been part of your parents’ business development process or worked in a family-owned restaurant or store, your dinner table conversations may have involved hiring practices and workplace challenges. Even if you didn’t start the company, your experience is a source of knowledge and brings value to your job search.

3. Travel. Any trip that has broadened your perspective of the United States or the world adds value to your relevant work experience. Did you hike the Grand Canyon or backpack through Europe? Did you visit a country where you couldn’t even read the street signs? Be sure to tell potential employers how you overcame these challenges and broadened your life experience.

4. Passions or hobbies. What do you care about and what do you do in your free time? Whether it’s running marathons, building model airplanes or teaching yourself to cook, anything that demonstrates your dedication and drive has value in the workplace. If you’ve committed yourself to a goal and achieved it (or are working on achieving it), you’ve spent a lot of time and energy in this area of interest. Be sure to mention these experiences in an interview or professional networking situation.

5. Social media. Have you made a (positive) name for yourself in the social media word? If you’ve become highly involved in an online community like Twitter, YouTube, Ning or LinkedIn, be sure to mention this experience in a job interview. Many companies are focused on enhancing their presence online and may appreciate your experience and knowledge in this still-new arena. If your talent includes more than Facebook-stalking your peers, and you’re proud of what you’ve done, don’t hesitate to share.

6. Technology. If you have computer knowledge beyond Microsoft Word, take it into consideration as a marketable skills. If you have significant experience with Quickbooks, Photoshop or are really advanced with Excel or PowerPoint, definitely play up these skills. If you can write HTML code (even basic), that can be very valuable too.

7. Moving. Did you attend more than one high school because your parents decided to move? Did you transfer colleges after your freshman year? If you successfully made friends and acclimated to a new environment, you might mention this experience in an interview. If you didn’t love your first pick of colleges, your desire to change and improve your situation shows strength and courage. Play up your ability to make the most of change when speaking to potential employers.

8. Overcoming a life challenge. Were you injured and completed physical therapy? Have you dealt with a learning disability or taken care of a sick parent? Though these are very personal experiences, you might mention these personal trials in an essay, cover letter or interview. Some of life’s greatest challenges have nothing to do with work or professional experiences. Give yourself credit and consider talking about these difficult life experiences from an attitude of strength. They’re part of who you are today and potential employers will appreciate your honesty and courage.

In addition to brainstorming all of the above types of experience, I poked around the Web to find even more. Freelance work, certification that requires training or courses, awards of all kinds and any involvement with a nonprofit are also worthy of mention. If I’ve left anything off this list, please share additional types of experience in the comments below.

As your post-summer assignment, go back through this list and put together a master list of your own. If you’re stuck, talk to five people who know you best. Ask your parents, siblings, mentors, best friends and favorite professors to help you come up with a list of valuable experiences you’ve had and specific qualities you bring to the table.

When it comes to selling ourselves, we often don’t see what’s right in front of us. Yes, it’s important to be humble, but in a competitive job market it’s also necessary to articulate exactly what knowledge, skills and experiences you bring to the marketplace. Happy listing!

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