Your Guide to Making Unrelated Experience Look Relevant on Your Resume

Perhaps you’re a a few years into your career with just a few jobs under your belt. Maybe you’re an experienced professional looking at making a pretty major career change. Or, perhaps you entered the military right out of high school, and now you’re looking for your first civilian job.

Regardless of your specific circumstances, you’re dealing with an all-too-common problem: You know exactly which jobs you’d like to apply for, but the majority of your work experience up to this point seems completely irrelevant.

Believe me, pretty much everybody’s been there. I remember sifting through openings when I was fresh out of college—with work experience that equated to a part-time pizza waitress and someone who did all of the grunt work at a law firm—and getting frustrated by the fact that I would never be able to make myself look impressive (or relevant) enough to even get my foot in the door.

Yes, it can be somewhat discouraging. But, if up until this point you’ve reacted by either crying, cursing, or contemplating throwing your computer out the window, it’s time for a serious change.

Luckily, there are a few different tactics and strategies you can use to make even the seemingly most unrelated experience appear more applicable to the position you’re applying for. Follow these six steps, and you’ll be armed with a resume that makes you look like a no-brainer fit.

1. Study the Job Description

First, let’s start with the obvious. Before you can focus on tailoring your information to fit a particular role, you first need to have a clear idea of what exactly the company’s searching for.

This means you need to read through the job description with a fine-tooth comb. Print it out and grab a highlighter if it helps you!

I know that job descriptions can feel a little overwhelming, particularly if your brain’s just obsessing over all of the ways you’re unqualified. So, to make this easier, grab a notepad and focus on identifying just these two key elements: The major responsibilities of this position and the core skills that are required.

Once you’ve zoned in on those nuts and bolts, you’ll have a much better handle on how you can appropriately tweak and tailor your own information to be more suitable.

2. Think Outside Your Title

Now, it’s time to take a cold, hard look at your own experience. What positions have you had up to this point, and what duties were associated with those roles?

When doing this, it’s all too easy to get wrapped up in your title and only the core functions of your position. But, don’t limit yourself and narrow your lens to only the major things. Instead of thinking back on what you did day in and day out, switch your focus to identify any projects or tasks—even if they seem small—that are related to the job you’re applying for.

Jenny Foss, a long-time recruiter and career coach provides a fitting example. “Maybe you’re an office manager trying to become a marketing coordinator,” she explains, “In addition to your administrative responsibilities, you manage your company’s Twitter feed and help with trade show coordination. That’s marketing! So, be sure to highlight the marketing stuff you’re doing—or have done in other roles—even if it was not your primary job function.”