Careers

4 Transferable Skills Gained Working in the Food, Retail Industries

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For four years during my undergraduate study, while my friends slept in on weekends and enjoyed fun trips or events, I woke up at 7 am every Saturday and Sunday and spent both days working in the school cafeteria. At the time, I didn't see the experience as anything beyond a paycheck to help me cover my tuition. Years later -- and after a summer at an amusement park, two semesters at the university bookstore and two years as a waitress -- I realize that the work ethic I developed and the skills I gained through these experiences are what make me successful in my chosen career. The roles above challenged and exhausted me, but they also taught me valuable skills I use to this day.

It's easy to dismiss experiences in food service and retail as unimportant, or as something to do before finding “a real job." If you have limited or no experience, however, such roles can teach you skills you can apply throughout the rest of your professional life, regardless of what career you choose. Most important, employers often view such experiences positively. Two years ago, a guest speaker my institution hosted emphasized how food or retail stints stood out to him when reviewing a candidate's resume. He had started in such roles and respected others with similar backgrounds.

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