Perhaps you’ve been working at Starbucks for the last 5 years. It’s been great, but you’re ready to take the next step in your career. How do you move forward? How do you convince potential employers you are the best candidate for the job? Do you exclude your work as a barista when discussing your employment history?
First, let’s talk about “Professionalism.” We need to get one thing straight: you are a professional. There is an idea here in America that the word ‘professionalism’ is reserved solely for businessmen and women–the type of workers who wear button-up shirts everyday and work in an office. This is simply not the case. Professionalism merely describes the competency and skill utilized in a given line of work. It doesn’t matter what your position is in whatever company you work for–you are a professional! This should fill you with some pride in your work experience.
Now that we’re clear on professionalism, let’s go over a fews simple steps that will give you a launching point into your next career.
Start by recognizing your skills. There isn’t a lot of appreciation for the work of a Starbucks Barista today. Customers come up to the drive-thru window, tap their iPhone, grab their latte, and off they go! They can’t see what kind of logistical mastermind you are, balancing speed, accuracy, and frothy espresso drinks all while holding a smile. So here is what you need to do: take a long look at each of your workplace responsibilities and write them down as a list. Now, one-by-one go down the list and write notes next to each responsibility, describing the task in as many literal or figurative ways as possible. It might look something like this:
This need not look pretty. It’s a rough sketch. The goal is to gain a more comprehensive understanding of your usual workplace activity. When we do the same day-to-day tasks at work we tend to forget just how many responsibilities we have. This may be the most important step of the process, so spend some serious time thinking about it.
Next, translate your skills. Now that you have a full list of those specific things you’ve become proficient in at work, we need to translate them into language that is specific to your target career. Let’s say your plan is to transition from Starbucks into an administrative assistant position (shoot for the moon, but it’s good to be realistic, and working as an administrative assistant could be a great stepping stone toward your goals.) There are certain skills companies have in mind when hiring an administrative assistant, and they almost always include them in job postings. I typed in ‘administrative assistant jobs’ in the LinkedIn search bar and wrote down the ‘desired qualifications’ from the first two postings I saw:
You’re probably way ahead of me by now–see the correlation? With a bit of wordsmithing you can easily translate your experience as a barista into job qualification. In fact, these are the same qualifications you might expect to see on the posting for a barista position! Of course it’s not always this easy, and the hiring manager may not be aware of all that was involved in your previous employments. It’s up to you to draw the connections. Check out the below job description built with only the skills we’ve discussed here:
And this can be built upon! Take ownership of your experience, spend some time wordsmithing, and before long you’ll have an accurate, marketable experience description that will stand out to potential employers.
Finally, communicate your skills. This part is easier said than done; and, really, there are many dimensions to it. Initially, your top priority should be to push your information out the door–put it on the streets of the internet and let it work for you. LinkedIn is a great place to start. Did you know that 94% of recruiters use LinkedIn to vet applicants? I think it’s safe to assume the hiring manager at your target company wants to see your LinkedIn profile. Make sure to consider using several job-posting sites as well, like Monster.com or Careerbuilder.com.
Another aspect of communicating your skills is developing actual verbal fluency. It’s one thing to spend countless hours wordsmithing your resume, finding just the right adjective to describe a particular ability; but to be able to relate it verbally in an interview or while networking is very different. Just like a salesman, you need to develop your sales-pitch. It might sound weird, but having AUDIBLE conversations with imaginary interviewers while driving in your car can help you develop quick recall of your best pitches (don’t worry, other motorists will just think you’re on the bluetooth.) Sit down with a friend or family member and pretend to be interviewed, discussing your job history while maintaining eye-contact with the interviewer. A little bit of practice goes a long way.
Now–I won’t lie to you–translating your experience may not be enough to score you a job. There may be other ‘boxes to check off’ before you will be seriously considered for your target position. You may consider enrolling in some coursera.org courses which will grant you a handy certificate on top of giving you some great education. Depending on your industry you may find that acquiring a certification or two can boost your credibility. It’s important to think about your ‘whole professional package’ as it is seen by potential employers. Often a number of small steps can show great initiative and determination.
Ok, now open up a new Word Document and get started! Give your experience the description it deserves and put it to work in the job market!