4 Unusual Life Experiences That Make You A Better Job Candidate


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Sometimes it’s the road less traveled that helps us figure out what type of career we want. But once the decision is made, how can you show your unconventional experiences translate to marketable job skills?

Don’t worry because you’re in luck. A 2015 CareerBuilder survey of over 2000 HR professionals revealed that 46 percent of recent college graduates (ie candidates that took the traditional route) lack real world learning. And that’s exactly where your experience has come from: the real world. Still, how do you show employers that your worldly skills make you hireable?

Whether you took time to travel or spent time taking care of family, here are the best ways to present your unconventional skill set and land your dream job:

1. Forgoing or not finishing college

One of the biggest advantages to skipping college is you have four more years of work experience than college graduates. Not having to list your educational background on a resume also gives you extra space to expand on your work experience. Consider adding a line detailing what exactly you learned in each of your previous position.

Don’t forget that there are different forms of education as well. Share any relevant classes you make have taken online or the results of personality test you’ve taken, like Myers-Briggs, to give employers a better idea of your skills. Being self-taught also says a lot about you. If you’ve taught yourself Photoshop or HTML, put it on your resume and highlight that you learned it all on your own.

2. Taking time off to travel

Whether you worked abroad or just went out and saw the world, you brought home more than just souvenirs. You encountered new cultures, learned independence, and maybe even mastered a foreign language. The struggle is how to talk professionally about your traveling experience and not just retell the story of your visit to the Eiffel Tower.

A 2014 report from NACE revealed that 62.1 percent of employers were seeking flexible employees and 60.6 percent looked for interpersonal skills. By living out of your comfort zone and interacting with new people, your travels prove that you possess these qualities. During interviews, have anecdotes prepared that demonstrate these and other applicable characteristics.

Also, find ways to use your foreign contacts as references. Ask them for letters of recommendation that show how you spent your time abroad and how it makes you a better employee.

3. Caring for family members

Sometimes life throws you a curve ball, and you have to take time off from your career to be there for your family. Whether it’s only a few months or a couple of years, that time away doesn’t need to hurt you professionally.

The aforementioned report from NACE found that the number one quality employers were looking for was leadership. Stepping up to take the helm when your family is in trouble or just needs you at home shows that you have that characteristic.

Look for other opportunities to include your responsibilities at home on your resume. For example, if you scheduled and kept track of doctor appointments, you have organizational skills. If you developed a household budget, you have basic accounting skills.

4. Changing career fields

We all make mistakes and sometimes that includes our first career choice. Maybe you started out in the financial sector, but now realize the marketing world is more for you. The challenge is breaking into your new field without having to start over completely.

They key to transitioning from one industry to another is to research similarities and differences between the two. This will help you decide which of your skills are just as valuable in your new field. It’ll also make you aware of what weaknesses you might have. Don’t be afraid to share difficulties you might face in interviews; it will show that you’ve taken the time to develop an understanding of the industry. They’ll also appreciate you being open and honest.

Look for companies that have mentoring programs. These can be opportunities for you to really learn about and grow in your new career.     

What other unconventional ways have you gained job skills? How do you explain them to employers?  

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Val Matta
Val Matta
Val Matta, Managing Director of CareerShift, co-founded the company in 2005 to help individuals bridge the gap between education and employment.  As a recognized expert in the field, Val is a frequent speaker on career management, networking, and job hunting strategies.  You can connect with her and the CareerShift team on FacebookLinkedIn, and Twitter.