Top 3 Unconventional Work Experiences For Your Resume

One of the most common resume mistakes is when candidates only include their experience from their 9 to 5, full-time roles, and forget about everything else they did. Well, I am here to tell you that: experience is experience!

There’s nothing wrong about the traditional way of working, but it’s not the only path to professional growth. It’s important to break away from this one-size-fits-all view of what counts as valuable experience, especially today where gig work and freelancing have become more common. Here are three non-traditional work experiences that can help stand out as a top candidate for recruiters.

Side Hustles 

A side hustle is any money-making activity you do outside of work hours. Some people do it as a means to pursue creative interests, while others take them on to add to their income. Whatever your reason is, running a side hustle shows that you’re skilled enough at something to attract paying clients and earn their trust. If your side hustle directly relates to the role you’re applying for, then it paints you as a true professional with real-world experience in the field.

For example, if you’re applying for a role that requires experience in e-commerce, then it would be great to include your dropshipping side hustle in your resume. This shows that you’re no stranger to product selection, online marketing, order fulfillment, and customer service. The fact that people have trusted you with their orders and payments is a clear indicator that you’ve got what it takes to succeed in the field.

Volunteer Work

Top candidates know that one of the best things you can do in your career is to get relevant experience for the role you are looking for. Even if it’s unpaid work or volunteering, that still counts as valuable experience!

For me, the notion that something isn’t worth doing if it doesn’t immediately bring you monetary value immediately is a shortsighted perspective. That’s because it fails to recognize the value of gaining experience and new skills that may attract new opportunities for the future.

For example, let’s say you are targeting a role as a Social Media Manager. If you spent some time doing volunteer work by running social media for a nonprofit or your local church, then I would list that as professional experience. 

You may not have been paid, but you still actively studied and engaged with the nonprofit’s audience, demonstrated your creative skills by designing graphics, honed your copywriting abilities, and strategically scheduled posts.

These tasks reflect a depth of engagement and a range of competencies that are directly applicable in many paid positions, especially in fields like marketing, communications, or social media management.

What I would advise though, is to be strategic in choosing which volunteer work to include in your resume. Ensure that the tasks you performed during your volunteer work are closely related to the ones required for the role you’re applying for.

However, if you’re seeking a role in a completely different field, like finance or healthcare, it might be best to focus on volunteer experiences that highlight transferable skills. While the specifics of the tasks may differ, abilities like communication skills, adaptability, and creative thinking that you gained from volunteering will be relevant to any role.

Extracurricular Activities

Another item that you can add to your resume is work that you did for academic and special-interest clubs while you were studying for your college degree. Maybe you were editor for the college paper, or regularly participated in Model UN – these are good roles that demonstrate your leadership skills. These are especially great to include for recent graduates and those pursuing roles in academia, government, or related fields.

Whether you were coordinating workshops, managing club finances, or overseeing publicity campaigns, these experiences highlight your teamwork and organizational skills, which are highly transferable to various professional settings.

The biggest takeaway is this: good experience is good experience in the eyes of a recruiter. It may fall outside of the traditional 9 to 5 occupation, but side hustles, volunteering, and extracurricular activities signal to recruiters and potential employers that you’re disciplined and know how to bring value to your organization. Companies would be lucky to have you!

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