Being a full time college student is a full-time job in itself, but many students take on part-time jobs to help cover tuition or get experience to bolster their resumes.
According to market research and educational consulting firm Maguire Associates, 79% of students worked part time while in college in 2011, up from 78% in 2010. Experts recommend that students look for jobs that will help their future career path and provide them real-world work experience.
“While you can gain valuable work experience in any type of job, it’s ideal to be able to describe specific projects you handled or accomplishments you can show from your part-time or internship experience that relate to the target post-graduation job,” says Miriam Salpeter, owner of Keppie Careers and author of Social Networking for Career Success.
For example, students with math and science oriented majors focused on technical abilities need to have strong communication and relationship building skills, so Salpeter recommends they find jobs that provide the opportunity to build on these soft skills.
For students seeking part-time employment, here’s what the experts say to look for in a position to not only take home a paycheck but also gain experience to boost their resumes.
Look for Paid Internships
Finding and landing a paid internship in college is the holy grail of part-time jobs, especially considering the level of competition with other students for both paid and unpaid opportunities.
If students are hired for an unpaid internship, Ryan Kahn, career coach at Dream Careers says it’s acceptable to take a part time job in the retail or restaurant industry allows students to help make ends meet.
“You can still do a part-time job but even if you can squeeze in a two or three day a week internship in with that, that way you’re at least heading towards your end goal,” he says.
Don’t Overlook Positions on Campus
Students should look for relevant positions in their field in on-campus jobs (personal trainers, teaching assistants, administrative jobs, etc) to be able to work closely with others in their industry without having to travel very far.
“Say you’re a marketing major…that might be working for the campus events department and helping market their upcoming events,” says Kahn. “While you’re gaining those experiences, you’re also getting paid and…you can [show future employers] that you took advantage of that job and how that really helped you prepare for a marketing career.”
A Work-Study program either on or off campus can also help students increase industry-specific skills that can be easily translated onto a resume for prospective employers, says Uva Coles, vice president, student services at Peirce College.
“The actual position may not be as important as the transferrable skills gained and honed and the student’s ability to articulate them.”
Temp Work, Long-Lasting Skills
Many companie–particularly in the business and legal fields–often have temporary positions they need to fill and students can take advantage of working for a few weeks or months at a time.
“Temp work can be great, and may even help student add to or eliminate the type of work they may want to do down the road,” says Salpeter. “You also gain experience in being flexible, learning quickly and getting along with all types of people.”
Kahn explains that temping is a way for students to potentially land a full time job in addition to personally networking with others in the working world.
“When you come in there as a temp for an assistant in that position, you have a chance to win over that employer and show them that hey, they don’t need to look any further for that position—you’re right there and you’re a perfect fit for them.”
Offer Freelance Work
Students with talent in a specific area of work or skill (writing, computer repair/programming, graphic design) can further their experience and enhance their skill set by taking on freelance work.
With the flexibility to take on or turn down projects depending on their abilities and course load requirements, students can build up enough freelance experience so that they have a resume full of projects by the time they graduate, says Kahn.
“Normally a freelancing opportunity doesn’t take up that much time of your schedule—it could only take up maybe a week, maybe only a couple hours of your week, so it’s definitely a great way for a busy student to add something to their resume without a full time commitment.”