Explaining unrelated jobs on your resume: Ask Amber

By Amber Alarid, JVA Consulting

I know firsthand from friends who have had a hard time securing a job in their field that this economy is tough for young professionals, especially those who just graduated from college. This means that in order to stay afloat while trying to land a dream job, many choose to take jobs unrelated to the career path they have chosen. If you’re applying for jobs and considering cutting unrelated experience out of your resume, don’t hit that delete button just yet—gaps in employment or no employment history can hurt your resume more than unrelated work. Approached with the right attitude, unrelated jobs don’t have to be a major hurdle toward future employment in your field. The following is a list of ways you can not only explain away, but also highlight time spent outside the field.

Take an internship or volunteer position

I personally encourage everyone who asks me what to do while working in a temporary job to clear some time in their schedule for activities related to the nonprofit field. If your current position is part-time, this is an ideal opportunity for you to take on a part-time internship as well. Employers love seeing internships on a resume because it shows that the applicant was proactive and believed in the work he or she was doing enough to do it for free or very little pay (yes some internships pay, which is a great option if money is a concern). If you are working full-time, consider spending evenings or weekends volunteering with an organization you would love to work for or under the supervision of someone in a job you would like to have. Practice using the skills you are learning at your job in your internship/volunteer roles so are better equipped to give employers concrete examples of how your transferable skills (customer service, administrative duties, etc.) can benefit that organization.

Group relevant experience together at the top

An article on Monster.com suggests putting the most applicable skills and work experience at the top of your resume, bringing attention to your most valuable assets and lessening focus on less relevant information. Not only will the resume draw in recruiters who typically skim resumes on the first round, but, as the article reminds readers, using key words and phrases at the top of your resume will resonate with the automated scanners that employers sometimes use to weed out resumes that are not a good fit. Related skills, courses or positions listed in the beginning of your resume or cover letter can even include volunteer positions.

Practice talking about unrelated experience before an interview

Ask a friend, advisor, relative, etc. to serve as an “interviewer” for this exercise. Give the lucky volunteer a copy of the job description you are after and your resume. If they feel comfortable, ask them to quiz you on any work experience or skill set that doesn’t fit neatly into the position the company is hiring for. If you prefer, jump right into a conversation with the other person, talking about your past experience and why it makes you the right candidate for the position. Is the (mock) interviewer convinced? Gather feedback from the interviewer and yes, you guessed it, practice some more until you feel comfortable answering questions about your resume and/or using it as a springboard to discuss your candidacy.

Highlight dedication

If you held a particular job or volunteer position for a lengthy amount of time, highlight it to show the employer that you are dependable and serious about any job to which you apply. Employers don’t want to invest time in an employee who isn’t serious about sticking around or showing up, so if you have perfect attendance, flaunt it.

Do you have unrelated work on your resume? How do you highlight the work and explain it to prospective employers? If you are grad job who is job hunting, share your experience in the comments section below; if you are about to begin job hunting, share your concerns.


This entry was posted in College graduates and nonprofits, Commentary, Gen Xers, Human resources, Millenials and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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