(Written by Jessica Halcom, Corporate Recruiting Manager – Human Resources for Schneider National, Inc.)
Our cumulative life experiences create who we are, and who we will become. You’ve likely heard about Steve Jobs haven taken a calligraphy class almost “on a whim” after he’d dropped out of college. What he took away from that class would largely influence the design of Apple and Mac computers. At the outset, calligraphy doesn’t appear to have a thing to do with computer science, but it ultimately became one of the largest differentiating factors in consumer preference between Apple and their competition.
I often have students tell me that they’ve purposely left work experience off of their resume because it “wasn’t relevant” to the job to which they’d applied. You might not think you’re headed for the Forbes List because of the summer job you took working on a line in a factory, but I’d argue that you may be wrong, and I’d like to pass along some advice:
Potential employers care about all of your work experience, not just the seemingly related. All job experience is valuable experience. Madonna worked at Dunkin Donuts in New York when she was still trying to launch her career, Bryan Cranston worked on a paper route, and Sara Blakely sold fax machines door-to-door. Admittedly, fried dough, newspapers and faxes have little to do with singing, acting and Spanx, however, proving a good work ethic, personal responsibility and showing up every day on time, and willing to learn, say a lot about you.
If you had a job that doesn’t seem to match up with the skill set for the position you’re applying to, prospective employers still want to hear about it. Consider this example; the Director of Operations is deciding whether or not to hire you based upon the three month internship you had last spring in a production department of another company, because that was the only job you listed on your resume, deeming it the only relevant experience you have. You excluded the three summers you spent painting houses, and the job you have as a shift leader during the school year at a local sub shop. By omitting work history, you weren’t showcasing your work ethic, willingness to work long hours, ability to make quick decisions, experience working with customers in a fast paced environment, team work and leadership qualities, all of which are skills that would benefit most any organization, and would make you a more attractive candidate for the role.
It’s important to account for your time, no matter what. A candidate who hasn’t worked during their summer breaks may have an excellent work ethic, problem solving skills and be incredibly creative, but how would we know? If you haven’t taken a job during the school year, or on summer breaks, tell us about what kept you busy. We want to know about your volunteer work, sports teams or organizations you were involved with, or study abroad experiences. You don’t necessarily need to be earning a paycheck to be gaining some valuable skills. Another thing I’d urge you to consider is that when purposely omitting work history from a resume, leaving an unexplained gap in time can make it appear as though you have something to hide. The best rule of thumb is to always be honest.
For summer, part-time, internship and full-time positions check out the opportunities at www.uwgb.edu/careers today!