Not so long ago a younger client came to me with an unusually clean-looking résumé. My immediate thought was one of joy: a well-thought-out résumé with minimal but crucial information is so much better than one crammed to each edge of the page with everything dating back to your kindergarten class play.
But this one was a little different.
She had a great degree from a top school, some keen interests, one unpaid role in the industry she was hoping to move up in, and a two-year gap in the middle.
“Oh, I just worked at Starbucks for a few years after college while I was sorting myself out and boosting my bank balance”, she said. “What’s the point in writing that down?”
There are so many points I didn’t know where to start.
1. Don’t let them wonder.
First of all, gaps on your resume stop hiring manager’s eyes in their tracks and raise question about what you were doing. The initial response is cautious, because, surely, if you’d been doing something worthwhile you’d have included it, right? Before I asked the question, I immediately started thinking, ‘maybe she failed college’, and my subconscious employer brain was writing her off.
While a history of job hopping doesn’t look too great, no history at all looks worse.
2. They get that you’re not perfect.
Second, employers understand that getting a pricey college degree doesn’t always come with complete clarity on what we want to do with our lives. Getting a job straight out of school and working to pay back some of your debts shows your work ethic and go-getter attitude. As an employer, this shows me someone who is independent and is more likely to be able to help themselves in the workplace rather than asking me for help all the time.
Top employers say that millennials need more than just their college degree in order to impress them. So own your two years of hard work, agility and patience behind that barista machine.
3. Own those skill sets you’ve created.
Thirdly, there are so many skills you could learn while working in hospitality. It didn’t take me long to discover that Starbucks has many training programs that show a good work ethic, dedication and creativity. My client had completed several in-store qualifications and ended up mentoring other members of staff.
It is important to evidence your achievements, even if your job is task oriented. If you were put in charge of two team members and they passed their own training in record time, include it. If you helped your team take in five times the workload of what they’d usually take on during a holiday because you implemented a new way of working that helped you to manage the crowds effectively, write it down.
4. Become aware of your soft skills.
If it’s not your primary career focus, you might not have undertaken barista exams or bartending lessons but you will certainly have picked up transferrable soft skills. Dealing with the general public day after day is not easy, no matter where you are based. Customer service leads you to think on your feet and builds your empathetic capacities — managers in hospitality are said to have extraordinarily high rates of emotional intelligence — and here was my client about to delete those two years at Starbucks from history.
I had some of the best times of my life working behind a bar — it’s sociable, it’s fun, and you’re constantly learning about people. Never be ashamed to say that you worked in this level of customer service if it isn’t your lifelong goal.
Let’s be honest. There are a lot of people out there who couldn’t do the job that you did. The benefits of a tough, entry-level job like being a barista far outweigh having to explain why you spent two years making coffee at Starbucks, so get it back on your résumé.
And own it.