Have you ever had a job that took you in a different direction then you thought you would ever go? I hope to work for a PR agency after graduation. However my path in college has lead me to some jobs down other roads. I started out being a hostess at a steakhouse. Then this past summer I went on to be a store intern at Target.

While I enjoyed both of these experiences, neither of them takes me any closer to my dream job. Or do they?

Here are the 5 things I learned from my customer service jobs:

  1. Understand the customer’s perspective. Marketers, PR professionals and advertisers alike need to understand what the customer or audience thinks and believes. In Target, I saw first hand the difference it makes looking at the store from the customer’s perspective. I was able to walk the store and give the other managers a customers perspective. As a student I have been a customer much longer than an employee. The key is to not lose that perspective.
  2. Best practices are best practices for a reason. As a student I can’t help but want to innovate. I see a problem and immediately want to be creative and make changes. The problem is that in a big corporation most of the problems have already been solved through best practices. Coming into a new company it is important to understand when to innovate and when to research past situations, best practices and case studies.
  3. Everyone needs to help ensure brand loyalty. I noticed that some people may have loved the steakhouse I worked for. They may have even refused to eat anywhere else. But one bad experience from a stressed out waiter quickly changed their opinion. Target challenges each employee to live up to their brand image because a PR professional can help the world understand a company’s brand, but the employees are the ones who can keep those customers coming back.
  4. Everyone needs a strong writing background. As I looked over my boss’s shoulder while she typed a proposal for a new payroll plan for the logistics team, I couldn’t help but chime in with some editing advice. Even a retail job requires someone to write. In order to express your opinion, it is important to understand how to express yourself through your writing.
  5. It is important to lead. Everyone has come across a boss or manager who is an expert micro-manager. So don’t become one yourself. Learn how to ask questions. Don’t tell people what to do. Help lead them to the right problem solving decision.

The most important thing is that you can get something out of any job experience. So let me know. What have you learned from you summer job?