I want to work *less hard* for the money
November 5, 2012 3:55 PM   Subscribe

Help me sell out! How can I manipulate a resume full of customer service and food jobs to land me an entry level office job?

I'm a 24 year old who has worked since I was 18 in specialty food, coffee, and high end boutique jobs. I am trying to shift from the food/customer service field into office work because I'm just so burnt out, and want more financial security than any jobs I've held so far can offer. I'm probably going to be targeting administrative/file clerk/secretary jobs at large firms. I do have some networking contacts that are willing to help me out and vouch for me, but I want to be prepared. How can I manipulate my resume best to land me a job?

I think one of my biggest hangups will be that I don't have a college degree. I've held jobs for as little as 9 months and as long as 3 1/2 years. I have had supervisory roles, and I have ordering and inventory management experience. I'm excellent at customer service, a quick learner, and a hard worker. My references are great, and I have them from my three most recent jobs.

How can I best spin things to my advantage? Also, any tips you have about job searching, interviews, etc. with this particular situation will be appreciated too!
posted by jaksemas to Work & Money (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Get thee to a temp agency! Best way to get your foot in the door for an entry level office job, in my opinion. (Make sure your Microsoft Office skills are good because they'll probably test you on those.)
posted by jabes at 3:57 PM on November 5, 2012 [11 favorites]

Seconding jabes on the temp agency. That's how I got into entry-level office work many years ago with much less work experience than you.

Doing a good job while on site is worth way more than anything you can do with your resume and can often lead to perm positions.
posted by jeoc at 4:00 PM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Get thee to a temp agency!

Thirding! If not just for the software skills and demonstrated use of them, but you will be placed at companies that you then can name drop on your resume. It is a great way to legitimize yourself.
posted by lampshade at 4:14 PM on November 5, 2012

I did it by taking the civil service test and getting a job with the federal government. I was working at a grocery store, and also had no degree.

You'll probably get paid LESS to start, but it's easy to start moving up, and you get a lot of free training, etc, and from there you can go to any other office job.
posted by empath at 4:23 PM on November 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

I agree with the others who say to work at a temp agency. A few years ago I got a really cool job at Philips Consumer Electronics (the tv people!) through Ajilon (temp service) so check them out if they're in your area.

Barring a temp agency, apply for millions of jobs. As long as your resume is truthful and flattering, the most important part is the interview. At my most recent three or four jobs, my degree status hasn't even come up; they wanted to hear what I know and what I've done more than they cared about what I did 12 years ago. I guess that's the bonus of being 30!

I have always had tremendous luck getting interviews by writing really kick-ass cover letter. My cover letters have gotten me interviews at places that weren't even hiring, and in my current job it also got me $10k more than I was making before. My best letters have shown that I have a passion for whatever industry that particular company is in, praise for their specific organization, and a "please consider me for any open positions you feel I'd be qualified for"-esque line.

I have rarely had luck with Monster or CareerBuilder and have done well on Craigslist. As long as you're savvy enough to avoid the scams, Craigslist is a pretty good bet. My very first office job, I got by printing out resumes and handing them out in a local office park, but ymmv.

Sorry this was jumbled! If you want more advice please let me know. I have been where you are and I don't regret it. You can do it!
posted by masquesoporfavor at 4:28 PM on November 5, 2012

First, if long term security is something you are seeking through corporate america, I highly recommend starting to work towards a college degree. Even with lowly office work, any advancement - particularly in an office setting will be limited by your credentials. Twenty years ago, it might not have been the case as much, but today it is. Folks without degrees are going to be limited to sales and customer service roles (phone calls), mail room and support services, and similar roles where advancement opportunities are very limited. Many companies will require any of those jobs to be first staffed by temporary labor to minimize their cost structure (read: benefits). Success through the temp agency does not guarantee a future job with the company, and many will be laid off at various points throughout the year.

Things you will want to do: Always arrive on time, keep your breaks on schedule, and leave when you are supposed to. Do not badmouth co-workers, temp agencies, or employers in any context while at an assignment. Do your work quickly, do not check personal email, turn off your mobile phone while not on a break. If there are contests or stats, or mentors - see how you compare and work to be among the best stat-wise. If you manage to do well, your stats are among the best of the temps, you present a full time positive attitude, and you aren't tardy or absent, you may get hired on permanently. You could also do all those things and not be hired on - such is the life of a temp, and the whim of corporate america.

If you have no direct skills in the field, remember - it is as easy to train you as it is to train someone else - you are becoming a cog in the machine. Personality, while good for social interaction and for maintaining a rapport with your supervisor, is not what a company wants for a customer service representative... stick to their script - do it according to their standards. Also, find work. If the assignment has down time, ask for work - down time is time to downsize.

If you can do this, and maybe manage to take a few night (or day) classes towards a degree, you may find yourself clawing your way onto the corporate ladder.

Also, restaurant work: this gives you people skills, skills in time management, a keen understanding of deadlines and finding work. (if there's time to lean - there's time to clean). Boutique sales may give you a leg up on folks in terms of etiquette and you may find a niche with sales.

Good luck.
posted by Nanukthedog at 4:42 PM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

I work in a big office for a big company and do a lot of hiring. If you are looking for an entry level office type of job, having a customer service background is great.

One of the biggest buzzy words in the corporate world nowadays is "customer experience". When I review a resume of someone applying for an entry-level type role, I love to see when they talk about how they put their focus on their customer. How do they create a great customer experience? How does amazing customer experience tie in with running a successful company? As a frontline employee, how did you provide feedback to your business to help them improve? Did you ever come up with any ideas to improve a process/increase sales/increase customer satisfaction? If so, how did you "sell" that idea to your manager?

Many companies are realizing that employees who are able to take the perspective of the customer/advocate for the customer are an asset. If you have front line experience, you already have something valuable to offer. Don't de-value the skills and experience you have.

Good luck with the job hunt.
posted by caroo at 6:03 PM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

I do everyone's resume in my group. One thing I tell people is describe what you do at the job that translates to other work. Don't be so specific about your duties. For example, if you're a barrista, you don't need to say: "Made custom coffee drinks for customers." Feel free to steal anything you like. But you get the idea.

Here's how I structure my resumes.

phone numbers


A customer service specialist and supervisor with X years of face-to-face experience

-On-boarding and mentoring new hires
-Inventory management
-Supervising a staff of X employees
-Typing speed 100 wpm
-Microsoft Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint and database management tools
-Fluent in Esperanto


Nationally Known Coffee Company, Anytown, USA
Assistant Manager
Dates of Employment

Managed a staff of 4 employees ensuring appropriate coverage for each shift, and meeting company mandated service benchmarks.
- Created displays that increased per-store sales by 5%
- Employee of the month, January 2012
- Inventory Management


Microsoft Office-User Training 2008
Central High School-2000


Employee of the Month-National Coffee Company-January 2012
Top Producing Store-2011
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:35 AM on November 6, 2012

Nthing the temp agency thing.
posted by forkisbetter at 9:34 AM on November 6, 2012

I'll vouch for the temp agency route as well. I had worked 6 years in retail when I got laid off. Went to a temp agency, got placed in the call center of a small local business, and quickly (within weeks) the company bought me from the temp agency and moved me towards an IT role. I've been away from dealing with the general public for almost 10 years now and I don't miss it at all.

The best things I found from my retail experience for my resume were communication skills, problem solving (you've had difficult customers, I'm sure), and you have proven that you can be responsible.

Good luck!
posted by neilbert at 11:29 AM on November 6, 2012

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