Ask Victoria | Should I List an Unrelated Job on My Resume?

Hello Victoria,

I left my social services, government job in June 2014. From April through November 2015, I took a transitional, non-career-related job with the post office. I was wondering if is best to list this job in my résumé or leave it out and explain the unemployment gap during an interview?

Regards,

Benito

Hello Benito,

It’s great that you kept your employment gaps to a minimum by taking on a new job, even if it seems unrelated to the work in which you were previously engaged. I would definitely include your job at the post office on your resume, even if you feel it is not in line with the rest of your career path.

Employers tend to have biases in regards to employment gaps, and when they do look unfavorably at a gap, it puts the job seeker at an unfair advantage. While there is some backlash against those biases, the word on the street is that recruiters and hiring managers still do look at it as a red flag. When the consensus among recruiters is that they typically spend only about six seconds on a resume, scanning it for dates and specifically looking for employment gaps as a means to disqualify you, I’d say eliminate gaps as much as possible.

You were wise to accept some kind of employment after leaving your government job, Benito! And while it might seem unrelated to your former work, there are ways to include it on your resume to showcase that this role actually played to your strengths and gave you an opportunity to hone your skills and keep them fresh.

Without knowing what job you were doing at the post office, I can’t give precise advice on which transferable skills you should play up on your resume. However, I can guess that the job may have required punctuality, organizational skills, and exceptional rapport with customers. How might these (and other) skills relate to the type of job you want to do next? This is what you should include on your document. Omit any rote tasks that don’t relate to the job. Play up your strengths! Let’s say one of your tasks was to process envelopes, and you discovered a way to do so more quickly while maintaining accuracy. Showcase that accomplishment rather than the task, “processed envelopes”.  

Before rewriting your resume, be sure to carefully review the job listings for the opportunities to which you’d like to apply. What skills are required? Your resume, particularly the bullet points for your “unrelated” job, should clearly outline those skills. Fit your resume to the type of work you are currently pursuing. I find it helps to tailor your resume to a specific job listing, so you can really make a clear, solid match between the employer’s needs and your skills and accomplishments. While it might be more time-consuming, I’ve always been a big believer of quality over quantity!

To your success,

Victoria

 

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I became acquainted with Idealist in late 2000 while working in the career development office at a private liberal arts college in NYC. I used it almost daily to help students and alumni find meaningful careers. After a 12-year stint in higher education, I worked as a career coach for professionals in various industries (and still used Idealist). During one of those many searches, a listing really caught my eye- the one for the newly-created position, Careers Program Coordinator. So... I jumped at the opportunity. Since then, I took on the role of Manager of Career Content for Idealist Careers, creating career content for job seekers, leaders, and other nonprofit professionals. Understanding the roles that a positive outlook and holistic self-care play in career success, I've shared with our readers time-honored methods for improving confidence and productivity. Now, as Manager of College and Professional Development, my focus is on lifting the advice from Idealist Careers "off the page". Drawing from my experience in career development, I propel job seekers and career changers towards taking control of their searches with confidence and removing fear, uncertainty, and other blocks to success via in-person workshops and seminars, webinars, and conference programming. My great loves are cooking (preferably without a recipe, otherwise I doctor it up), dancing, live cultural performances, identifying the tasting notes in a good cup of coffee, exploring neighborhoods for hidden gems, and anything else that sparks the senses and allows me to experience all the beauty, dynamism, and intrigue that vivaciously living in a remarkable world offers.
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Comments

  1. Pingback: Ask Victoria: Should I List an Unrelated Job on My Resume? - Aim Blog

    • Pal
    • September 13, 2016

    While Benito took a break from his social service, government job to work in a customer service oriented governmental agency…There is more to the question for many people who take survival jobs. According to a study published in April, job seekers may be penalized for that job…http://www.seattletimes.com/nwshowcase/careers/survival-job-may-hurt-future-employment-prospects/

    1. Hello Pal, thank you for sharing this alternative perspective. In my conversations with many recruiters and hiring managers, particularly in the nonprofit sector, they have indicated a preference towards candidates that demonstrate they have been active in some way during bouts of unemployment. We at Idealist Careers recommend that job seekers use their resumes as an opportunity to showcase not their job responsibilities but rather their accomplishments. It is the astute, enterprising job seeker who will really make the most out of their “unrelated” job, identifying opportunities to showcase their strengths, propose new ideas that can improve processes, and contribute to the organization’s “wins”.

    • Tressie William
    • September 14, 2016

    I agree, it’s not good to put unrelated things on your resume. Just because you have more than enough work experience, doesn’t mean you need to include it all on your resume.Thank you so much Victoria for sharing your views.

    1. Hi Tressie, thanks for reaching out. I’d like to clarify that I did not exactly say that this job seeker should omit this experience from his resume entirely. Rather, the best course of action is to ensure that it is included in such a way that it attests to the skills that are most related to the type of job he is applying for in his current search. Sometimes, filling in a gap on one’s resume- whether through employment, volunteering, or some other type of extensive project- can make the difference.

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