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5 times it makes sense to include your high-school job on your résumé

Entry-level roles give us our first workplace experience and help shape our work ethic. But do they belong on a résumé?

5 times it makes sense to include your high-school job on your résumé
[Photo: Spencer Davis/Unsplash]

Whether it was bagging groceries, manning the fast food drive-through, or babysitting, many of us had jobs in high school. Entry-level roles give us our first workplace experience and help shape our work ethic. But do they belong on a résumé?

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According to a report by recruitment software provider iCIMS, 70% of recruiters identified past work experience as being more important than an entry-level applicant’s college major. But there is not a one-size-fits-all approach for knowing how far back to go on your résumé, says Amy Warner, iCIMS director of talent acquisition.

“Think about what you want to convey to the employer,” she says. “Highlight the roles or skills that are relevant.”

Career experts often recommend going back about 10 years on your résumé. Here are five times when adding your part-time positions to your résumé could be helpful within or even after that timeline:

1. If the experience is relevant

If the role is relevant and you can connect the dots to the job you’re applying for, keep it on your résumé, says William Ratliff, career services manager at Employment BOOST, a professional résumé writing and career services firm.

“For example, a job you had bussing tables or serving coffee in college won’t help much if you’re applying for a marketing management role five years out of school,” he says. “If you’re fresh out of college with no job history, those positions can help showcase your work ethic and customer service skills, but they lose relevance as soon as your professional career begins in earnest.”

Be strategic in how you present your customer service-oriented roles. Ratliff recommends searching job descriptions for skills and traits that crossover, like team leadership, problem-solving, financial reporting, relationship building, or anything you else you can feasibly connect to the positions.

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“Focus your résumé’s content on those skills, how you used them, and the concrete result of their application,” he says. “That way, your résumé will include the right key terms while illustrating how you benefited your former employers in those roles.”

2. If the job was in the same industry

Listing high school and college jobs can be helpful if they demonstrate you’re familiar with the industry, says Dr. Wanda Gravett, academic program coordinator for Walden University’s MS in Human Resource Management program.”Listing that early experience could advocate for your foundational knowledge and learning from the bottom up,” she says. “Coupled with your education, this might be a good sell and get you in the door for a low- to mid-level position.”

Candace Nicolls, senior vice president of people and workplace at Snagajob, an hourly job marketplace, agrees. “If you’re applying for a role that’s related to an hourly job you once had, list it,” she says. “If you want to get into merchandising, list your retail experience. Mention your restaurant experience if you want to work at their corporate headquarters. Nothing teaches hustle like hourly jobs.”

3. If you were promoted

If you started washing dishes and worked you way up, include your experience, says Louisiana restauranteur Chris McJunkins. “If you show growth, such as starting as a busboy and making it to manager, it is something I would want to show,” he says. “Your future employer would see that you started here and were respected enough to keep getting promoted.”

McJunkins started in the restaurant business at age 15 bussing dishes and now owns his own independent restaurant, eight Walk-On’s Sports Bistreaux locations, and one Cantina Laredo. He says if you can do restaurant work, you can do anything.

“You deal with people on every single level, he says. “If you’re in management, you’re dealing with employees of all different educational and financial backgrounds. And you’re dealing with all levels of people with customers. You learn to communicate with people.”

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4. If you want to demonstrate work ethic

High school or college jobs often demonstrate your level of motivation, says Dena Upton, vice president of people at Drift, a conversational marketing and sales platform. “These jobs can be a great indication of your work ethic and drive—particularly if you are early in your career,” she says.

For example, if you were a manager of a restaurant when you were in college, it can speak to leadership experience. Or if you were a retail salesperson, it can demonstrate your customer service abilities.

If you had a part-time job and participated in extracurricular activities, this can be especially telling, says Upton. “You shouldn’t shy away from showcasing things like sports achievements or volunteering, as not only do they paint a fuller picture of who you are and what makes you tick,” she says, “but they can be a great indication of your leadership, time management, and teamwork skills.”

5. If you plan to talk about the job in an interview

Employers often ask behavioral-based questions during an interview, such as “Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a difficult customer.”

“This is when you need to think about the skills and behaviors that an employer is looking for in a job description,” says Jennifer Lasater, vice president of employer and career services for Purdue University Global, and president-elect of the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

If they mention they are looking for a good communicator, think about work experiences where you may have had to get a group together to accomplish a task or explain a project or situation. Look at the job description and try to come up with examples of work experience that would show how you’ve gained and refined that skill over time. That will make you stand out from other candidates.

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You don’t need to list your high school and jobs forever, says Nicolls. “Instead of thinking about when to stop listing it in terms of years, focus on when to take it off in terms of experience or skills gained,” she says. “When you’re able to talk about accomplishments that are more pertinent to your chosen field or role, you can move on from your less relevant experience.”

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