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You've probably heard that each and every resume you send out needs to be tailored to the job for which you're applying, whether you're seeking a job in high finance or waiting tables. If you have experience as a server or waiter, use some of the skills you've learned to demonstrate why you're qualified for the new job.
Tailoring your resume to a new job means first knowing what the new job is all about. Read the job listing to find out as much as you can about the skills, qualifications and education the employer is looking for. Check out the employer's website to find out what the company's core values are. Network with current employees online or track down friends of friends who may work there, then ask them about hiring practices and the company culture.
If the job description lists mandatory skills, find ways to have your resume reflect those skills, even if you've never worked in the new job's specific venue. Underline the descriptive words in the job listing, then think about whether you've gained similar skills at the restaurant jobs you've held. For example, a company looking for a "strong salesperson" may appreciate that you were able to upsell wine on a regular basis. A company looking for a "detail-oriented" person may like that you were responsible for polishing silver or tracking liquor sales.
The more traditional "work experience" resume is appropriate when you're applying for a new job as a waiter or other service person and want to show your experience in the field. Like other traditionally-formatted resumes, start off with a "Work Experience" section. List your jobs in reverse chronological order, with the most recent job first. Include the employer name, your job title, the month and year you started and the month and year you ended your work at that job. Then create a few bullet points and type some of the the skills you have that match the employer's mandatory skills. Put the skill in bold, and then write a sentence or phrase explaining how you obtained that skill.
You may be worried that you only have experience waiting tables and don't have other job experiences that will make you seem highly qualified for another type of work. If that's your dilemma, use a "skills-based" resume instead of a resume that shows a chronological list of your previous jobs. In this resume, replace the "Work Experience" section with a section entitled "Skills." Use bullet points for each entry of a list of skills you possess -- focusing on the skills mentioned in the job description. Write a short explanation after each skill, telling how you've honed that skill. If you're applying for an office job that requires lots of multi-tasking, you could include "multi-tasking" as a skill, and then explain how you juggled many tasks and customers at once during your time as a waiter, advises Lake Land College's Career Services department. The difference in this type of resume is that you're starting off focusing on the skills that translate to other industries -- not tying them to a specific job as you would in the traditional format.
Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.