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Can Unrelated Jobs Really Hurt Your Resume?

Can Unrelated Jobs Really Hurt Your Resume?

Christina Macres | NonProfitPeople

Do you have a lot of unrelated jobs on your resume? Many job seekers — mostly young professionals and career changers — worry that having dissimilar work experience can hurt potential job prospects. But is having several unrelated jobs on your resume really an issue? According to interviewers and hiring managers, the answer is not really — especially if leaving it off means having a gap in your employment history. More importantly, employers aren’t just looking for evidence of relevant experience, they want transferable skills — skills that hold their value across a variety of careers, environments, and positions.

So what job history should you include on your resume and what’s better to leave off? Here’s our cheat sheet for quick reference!

What You Should Include:

1. A “Relevant Experience” Subsection

Because many of your positions have required different skill sets, it’s a good idea to group the most pertinent in a subsection at the top of your resume. Use this segment to spotlight the skills and accomplishments most applicable to the potential employer’s needs. Doing so won’t only win the employer’s attention; it will position key words at the beginning of your resume, bringing you to the attention of automated resume scanners.

2. Focus on Interpersonal Skills

These are abilities like work ethic, problem solving, and communication skills. So why are these important for your resume? Because good qualities like being an excellent problem solver or time manager are universal — despite the difference between the job you’re applying for and your previous positions. Employers find value in employees who hold both relevant experience and comprehensive abilities like analysis and efficiency skills. Candidates who demonstrate these all-encompassing traits will impress employers, no matter what their past experience is.

3. Include Related Hobbies or Projects

If your resume is deficient in related work experience due to a career change or relative newness to the job market (perhaps you just graduated from college), it’s a good idea to include volunteer work, hobbies and, non-work-related projects you’ve participated in on your resume. Just make sure it’s relevant! This shows employers where your interests lie, plus that you’re passionate and driven to attain employment in your chosen career path, even in this challenging job market.

What You Should NOT Include:

1. Every Company, Sport, Project, or Club You’ve Ever Participated In

Hiring managers can spot fluff from a mile away. So while it’s more than okay to include jobs and extracurricular activities on your resume, you must (must!) keep it relevant to the position you’re applying for. Your goal as a job seeker should be to make your resume as concise as possible, while still sufficiently summarizing your skills and experience.

2. Don’t Overload Potential Employers with Details

If your resume contains numerous unrelated jobs, it isn’t necessary to list all your specific duties at each. This can make your resume run long — something you definitely don’t want. Like we mentioned above, a resume doesn’t have to be long for it to be noticeable. On the other hand, if you’re running short on space but still want to include relevant jobs, it’s perfectly fine to describe your experience and duties for some positions and then list only a job title and reference for others.

3. Gaps

Gaps on your resume equal instant suspicion for hiring managers. What exactly were you doing for that time? If at all possible, you should avoid breaks in work experience. Now, that being said, most employers are aware of the economic climate and consequently the extra-competitive job market. If you find that you have multiple gaps on your resume (for example, due to a couple of layoffs), don’t be afraid to use a short part of your cover letter to provide an explanation. Just like describing your skills and experience while on the job, you should provide explanation for why you’ve been unemployed.

Just remember, past jobs are an important part of your career. The experience gained from them is significant — even if it’s not perfectly relevant. Be confident in your skills and stand behind your passion. The job you want can be yours!