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What part-time student jobs will help you get a graduate job?

Part-time jobs that will kick-start your graduate career

A part-time job is an asset to any graduate CV but your CV will look even better if you find a part-time job that prepares you for your preferred graduate profession.

Any part-time job will equip you with a range of skills that will make you more employable; in fact, a part-time job can enhance your CV as much as a relevant internship. We explain why employers love to see part-time jobs on a graduate CV, explore the best part-time jobs for a selection of popular graduate professions and examine how you can gain further skills from your part-time job.

Graduate recruiters love students to have had part-time jobs

Taking a part-time job, and sticking to it, suggests that you are the rounded and grounded candidate that all recruiters want to meet. ‘I am more impressed by someone who has done a part-time job throughout university than someone who climbed Mount Kilimanjaro because they were told it would look good on a CV,’ Charlie Bracken, executive vice-president and chief financial officer (CFO) for Liberty Global told The Guardian UK 300 when asked about what he looks for in graduate candidates.

When you are applying and attending interviews for graduate jobs, you will have to provide evidence and examples of your skills and abilities (often in answers to competency-based interview questions) and part-time jobs are as valid a source of examples as internships. The head of graduate recruitment at elite law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer told TARGETjobs Law: ‘I encourage candidates to talk about the skills they developed in, say, their regular part-time job rather than on a two-week vacation placement or open day – where, realistically, you have less time or opportunity to develop your soft skills.’

The best part-time jobs for different graduate careers

If you are in a position to pick and choose between part-time jobs and have some ideas about career options you would like to explore, you can look for a position that will give you the best possible chance of getting a foot on the ladder in your chosen profession.

It is definitely an advantage if you can get a part-time job in the sectors you are interested in, even if it just an administrative or clerical role (for example, temping in an estate agency office if you want a property career). Not only does this suggest an interest in the profession, but you may find out about any internship or graduate schemes run by the employer. Being already employed by the company – particularly if your manager gives you a good internal reference – could give you an edge in the recruitment process.

Similarly, if you are interested in a retail graduate career (say, as a retail buyer or trainee manager) recruiters prefer you to have experience on the shop floor, dealing directly with customers. In fact, for some retailers, previous retail work experience is a job requirement. The same goes for hospitality.

An alternative approach is to identify the skills most wanted in your preferred career sector and seek out part-time work that provides you the opportunity to develop and demonstrate those skills. For instance:

  • If you are interested in a career that involves dealing with clients (eg law, consulting, financial services and property) any customer-facing part-time job will give you the client management skills recruiters seek. Yes, we do mean working as a cashier, a waiter /waitress or behind a bar.
  • If you are interested in a career that involves explaining technical concepts to non-technical people (eg as in some IT or engineering roles) a part-time job with a tech-related retailer will give you opportunities to practise those skills.
  • If you are interested in a career that involves managing people (such as teaching or a trainee manager role in logistics, retail or hospitality) any job that requires taking a leadership or organisational role will impress. This could include working as a lifeguard or acting as a city tour guide.

Examples of the skills any student job can give you

All part-time work shows you have self-management skills, such as punctuality and reliability, and can juggle multiple commitments. Working while studying also suggests that you have initiative and a strong work ethic. Your part-time job may not be intellectually challenging, but in an employer’s eyes, that may even be an advantage. If you can maintain focus and accuracy while performing a repetitive task, it reflects well on your self-discipline and resilience.

Here are examples of skills different types of part-time jobs can give you:

Key skill Part-time job
adaptability, flexibility office temp
attention to detail cleaner
verbal communication receptionist
working under pressure server in fast-food restaurant
numeracy spreadsheet data entry clerk
persuasion telesales
leadership tour guide
integrity bar work
juggling competing priorities waiter/waitress
analysis market research
teamwork sports coach

How to get even more employability skills out of your part-time jobs

To gain further evidence of your part-time work, do say yes to any supervisory or leadership opportunities you are offered (such as being a checkout superviser or training new staff). It will look great on your CV and develop a whole host of additional skills, such as influencing and organising others.

If you are interested in increasing your general commercial awareness or in working in that sector, ask if you can shadow your general manager and discuss with them the reasons behind the decisions they make.

Remember that anyone you meet via your part-time jobs, whether a colleague, a line manager or a visiting executive could potentially help you with your future career. You may well be asked ’what do you want to do long term?’ and so prepare a short answer – and a longer one if someone seems interested. They might be able to give advice or put you in touch with someone who works in that field.

No matter what the job, make sure you cultivate a reputation for being reliable, punctual and helpful; this will result in the sort of employment reference that graduate recruiters love.

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