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Ask Sue
A Weekly Q&A Column About Professionalism, Etiquette and Problems in the Workplace
by Sue Morem

Building Experience vs. Making a Living

Dear Sue: I am a junior in college. In addition to going to school, I work at two jobs; as a teller at a bank and as a hostess at a restaurant. The pay is about the same at each job, and I enjoy working at both, but it is becoming a bit stressful. I found out that I will have the opportunity to work as a waitress in the restaurant soon, which would enable me to make a lot more money from the tips I earn. I want to waitress, but I think that working at the bank will look better on future applications and resumes. I donít know what to do and wonder if you have any advice.

Ė Working student

Sue Says: I wish I could provide you with a clear cut answer to your question, but there are many factors to be considered before you make a decision about which job to pursue. If you need the money to pay for college and living expenses, and can prevent the amount of financial stress or debt you will incur by earning more as a waitress, then it makes sense to leave the bank. On the other hand, if earning more money would be nice, but not crucial, you have the opportunity to evaluate your situation more objectively.

Although it is an advantage to have worked in a related field prior to entering it full time, it isnít feasible for many people. Working as a teller at a bank will be an asset for you if you plan on working at a bank once you graduate. However, if you will be pursuing work in an unrelated field, then teller experience may be no more impressive to a future employer than restaurant experience.

You have experience both places, so even if you leave the bank, it is still a part of your work experience and can be used on a future application. Donít downplay the value youíve gained and will continue to gain through your work in the restaurant; youíll likely enhance your skills in relating to and working with a variety of people, learn to work under pressure, manage time and much more. It will be up to you to convey this to potential employers.

The best way to gain experience that directly relates to your chosen field is through an internship. You will find that this type of experience will pay off when you begin looking for work after graduation. An internship can vary in length; some last a few weeks, others a few months and in certain situations will lead to full time employment. College students who decide to wait for a degree before seeking related on-the-job experience may be at a professional disadvantage. Professional experience is a desired quality and an asset for job seekers. Some college students manage to have several internships, giving them a big advantage over those without this type of experience. Your experience as an intern will be perceived positively by potential employers.

Although you have a full schedule right now, consider an internship an essential part of your education. Perhaps this is something you can manage to do during the summer or at some other time prior to your graduation. A job to help support yourself through college is much different than an internship; work as an intern provides you with industry-specific experience, and although not all internships pay, some do. An internship will be an asset; it will provide you with valuable experience and be a positive addition to your resume.

Sue Morem is a professional speaker, trainer and syndicated columnist. She is author of the newly released 101 Tips for Graduates and How to Gain the Professional Edge, Second Edition. You can contact her by email at asksue@suemorem.com or visit her web site at http://www.suemorem.com

Send Sue your questions by clicking here: Ask Sue
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