Work your way through school debt-free with these 4 skills

Many students turn to the worlds of retail, customer service, and hospitality during their college careers. These jobs offer flexible hours, which means they can earn money at night and on the weekends when they're not studying.

It can be hard to land a job while you're a student. Not only do you lack the skills to enter your chosen career field, but you can't accept full-time work because it would interfere with your class schedule and study time. If you're looking to make extra money when you're in school, make sure you highlight these four skills on your resume to get hired.

Work your way through school debt-free with these 4 skills


The ability to communicate professionally is one of the best skills you can hone regardless of your industry and skill level. Even some top CEOs at Fortune 500 companies lack quality communication skills, which puts them at a disadvantage when working with their peers.

Employers want to make sure you'll treat customers professionally. When situations get stressful, they need to know that you'll clearly and calmly work with customers to find a solution. Employers also want to know that you'll be able to communicate any potential problems with them so they can solve these issues early on.


For many entry-level and service jobs, showing up is one of the best ways to stand out. CareerBuilder found that the top two most in-demand skills that an employer looks for are:

  • a strong work ethic (73 percent)
  • dependability (also 73 percent)

Having a positive attitude came in at a close third with 72 percent of respondents listing it as a desirable trait. This means that if you're working as a waiter or as a sales associate in a store, one of the easiest ways to stand out is to show up when you're scheduled.

If you regularly miss your shifts or call off at the last minute, your manager will have to scramble to find a replacement and will question whether they should give you more hours in the future. This directly limits how much money you can make because your hours will be limited, and it reduces the likelihood of leaving with a positive recommendation. Furthermore, failing to be a dependable employee could frustrate your co-workers who have to overexert themselves to pick up your slack.


Most college jobs require a certain degree of flexibility. For example, some food prep cooks come in during the early hours of the morning to prepare for a brunch rush or stay late into the night getting food ready for the next day. Retail schedules can get full during seasonal sales, with some stores staying open 24 hours during the days leading up to Christmas. Even the nature of some jobs, like cashiers and customer sales representatives, requires flexibility to fill in various shifts.

Before you set out for job interviews, draft a schedule of hours that you absolutely cannot work. For example, list your class times that you couldn't reschedule or move around. Then try to be as flexible as possible to work around those times. This will make you more hireable, as managers can choose to schedule wherever they have a gap.

Training Ability

While some employers might appreciate candidates with a working knowledge of POS systems and previous experience, many are simply looking for hard workers that they can train. One of the easiest ways to impress your employers when you start working for them is to pick up the job quickly. The less time your manager has to spend training you, the sooner they can get back to more important tasks.

During your training, bring a notebook if possible and try to take notes. If you're struggling to pick up on certain aspects of the job, ask your co-workers for help training you. This might even mean staying late after you clock out to keep practicing.

By showing you're willing to learn new skills, you're setting yourself up for a promotion. Your manager will be more likely to choose you to take on additional tasks, which could result in additional pay.

You don't have to be an expert in your field to immediately make a difference. By being dependable and willing to work, you can increase your chances of finding a job that pays the bills during your college career.