Engineers often ask me if they should list non-engineering jobs on their resume when trying to land an engineering job.  For example, what if you spent a few summers flipping burgers at McDonalds or were unemployed for so long that you took a job as a clerk at a supermarket; should you really put these types of jobs on your resume?  In my opinion the answer is YES, however they must be put on your resume in a certain way, NOT just listed under experience.

What I recommend to engineers that have non-engineering experience is to have two different sections on your resume, one entitled Engineering Experience, and another one entitled Non-Engineering Experience.  You could also call them Related and Unrelated Experience, however the word unrelated makes it sound unimportant or not useful which certainly may not be the case.

The other important aspect of putting unrelated experience on your resume is the way you write the job description.  Below is an example of how you should and shouldn’t write the description for a job that is unrelated to engineering:

Example:  Let’s say you are a recent college graduate trying to land an engineering job, but unfortunately (or fortunately) spent the last two summers working at McDonalds because you couldn’t get an internship.  At McDonalds, your job responsibilities included opening up and setting up for the day, cleaning the kitchen, taking and fulfilling customer orders at both the drive thru and the register, and yes, flipping burgers or to put it more eloquently, food preparation.

HOW NOT TO WRITE UP THIS JOB ON YOUR RESUME:

McDonalds - Summer of 2010

I was unable to find an engineering summer internship and therefore worked as a waiter/cleaner at McDonalds where I performed the following tasks:

  • Open up and set up
  • Cleaning of kitchen
  • Food preparation
  • Fulfilling of customer orders

HOW TO WRITE UP THIS JOB ON YOUR RESUME:

McDonalds – Summer of 2010

I worked as an assistant to the manager at a local McDonalds for the entire summer.  Below is a list of my job responsibilities and what I learned from each one of them.  Overall, I believe that what I learned in this role will be very helpful to my success as an engineer.

  • Open up and set up.  I learned how important preparation is in a business and how it impacts the organization’s bottom line.
  • Cleaning of kitchen/facility.  I learned how important it is to take care of your tools and equipment, and how failure to do so can have a devastating effect on a business and the products and/or services it produces.
  • Food preparation.  Preparing the food made me realize how much responsibility I had in the growth of the business.  If the food items weren’t prepared properly, the customers would not be happy, and if customers aren’t happy, the business will not succeed.
  • Fulfilling of customer orders.  This was my first experience dealing directly with customers and I learned that above all else, the customer is your top priority and you must keep them happy.  This really kept me on my toes.

When I first took this job, I thought it was going to solely be a source of income, however, it turned out to be an amazing learning opportunity; and I am excited to implement what I have learned in the engineering world.

Now that may be a bit lengthy, but I wanted you to get the picture.  This post isn’t just about writing up a good job description.  If you read the job description above, it can be 100% true if you want it to.  In other words, if you take an unrelated job, make it a point to learn from it however possible.  Thinking in this way, will make any job enjoyable and help you to build skills that can push you towards your goals in your engineering career.

This is a guest post by Anthony Fasano, PE, author of Engineer Your Own Success. Anthony found success as an engineer at a very early age and now writes and podcasts to help other engineers do the same. Visit Anthony’s website atEngineeringCareerCoach.com and subscribe to the top 3 resources Anthony has used to become a partner in a firm at the age of 27.

 

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