I'm a software developer who has worked professionally for 2.5 years (5 years total experience). During my senior year of high school and a while after, I was programming for a company as an intern (later full time). Before that, I worked retail as a junior and at an apple orchard as a sophomore.

Are the two career-unrelated jobs necessarily going to look bad on a resume if I'm applying for a software development position? It seems like they are worth putting on because it shows I've taken on responsibility even though they were brief (10 months each) and unrelated. Combined with everything else on the resume, it fills a single page nicely.

Note: I did not go to college and have no plans to, but this question is still relevant as is for someone in college. The only difference would be having a pending college education listed.

  • 12
    if it all fits in a single page, I don't see a reason not to include them. It shows you've always been a worker and are not afraid of getting your hands dirty.
    – Formagella
    Dec 19, 2014 at 23:25
  • Only dedicate enough space to it as is commensurate with it's relevance. For those jobs, a one-line entry is enough, where for relevant jobs I'd include responsibilities, etc.
    – Jared
    Dec 20, 2014 at 20:27
  • 1
    Also, don't be afraid to eliminate it from your resume as you get further from that less-relevant experience. I don't list my factory jobs I had almost 20 years ago because at this point, who cares?
    – Jared
    Dec 20, 2014 at 20:28

6 Answers 6


It all depends on whether you learned anything from your retail experience - in particular, how retail works. You don't program in a vacuum. Can you make an argument that having worked in retail makes you better at designing e-commerce sites? Can you make an argument that you learned some life lessons from working retail? This is what I learned from watching people work retail: money is made one dollar at a time and no money is made until the customer buys. And you want your existing customers to return because it's so damn hard to acquire new ones. Running an e-commerce site is not that different.

Ditto for the apple orchard. What did you learn? I learned that the right way to do things is to put in everything you've got. Win or lose. And if you lose, you try again. Without repeating the errors of omission and commission. And since Mother Nature couldn't care less if you are feeling discouraged or not, you might as well try again without worrying about your feelings. Because the only thing that matters is what you got done. And if you don't succeed in the short-term goal of bringing in the harvest, don't even worry about the long term. Because most likely, you won't have a long term to worry about.

If you learned something valuable and that something is equally valuable and relevant to a prospective employer, you put it in your resume. Otherwise, you don't.

  • Personally I agree with Joe that such experiences are largely irrelevant once you get a few professional ones, but I'd certainly consider hiring someone who'd speak about their previous jobs as vividly as your answer does! Jun 23, 2017 at 12:29

Personally (although I'm biased), the apple orchard job is something I'd ask you about. Agriculture is a VERY valuable learning environment. It is hard work. It is about working effectively with things more powerful than you that don't really care what your agenda is. In your case, it was trees. In my case, it was cattle.

Others have expounded on the value of your retail work, already, but don't for a moment believe that your agriculture work is somehow not relevant. If you came to me with your resume, you'd have immediately piqued my interest and I'd want to interview you just because anyone who's worked effectively in agriculture is someone worth talking to.

  • 5
    I grew up in a rural area, and I got many of my values from there :) To this day, I get close to doubling over in laughter when some motivational speaker asserts that hard work gets rewarded - A drought, a flood, a cold snap can do in the harvest you spent months growing within a matter of days. And you know what? You pick yourself up, you go to the bank and get another loan and you work just as hard to bring in the next harvest. And the next harvest won't care that you're sick as a dog when it's time to bring it in - you get yourself in that tractor and you bring it in. Or you lose it. Dec 19, 2014 at 23:46
  • 4
    Yeah, watching a hailstorm wipe out two years' work in 10 minutes is a little humbling. Dec 19, 2014 at 23:47
  • Peasants and farmers are my kind of people :) Dec 19, 2014 at 23:48
  • that's why there are financial markets (insurance, forward contracts etc.) Dec 20, 2014 at 23:55

Are the two career-unrelated jobs necessarily going to look bad on a resume if I'm applying for a software development position? It seems like they are worth putting on because it shows I've taken on responsibility even though they were brief (10 months each) and unrelated. Combined with everything else on the resume, it fills a single page nicely.

My answer would be different if you had never held a professional position. But you've been working in software for 5 years, and have specifically been professionally employed for 2.5 years. I think it's time to drop the pre-professional, short-term jobs from your resume.

For me, highlighting anything other than your software experience is not useful.

Once you've been a professional for a few years, high-school jobs that aren't in the same profession are not very relevant. As a hiring manager reading your resume, they would just be a distraction for me. At this point in your career, you might have been the best 10-month grocery bagger or 10-month apple-picker in your town, but I just want to know how good you are at software.

I'd suggest that you put more detail into your professional experiences, and drop the non-professional high-school sections.



Work culture is work culture.

What I learned working as a cook to pay for toys and college translated to how to work as a profession. A boss is boss and a coworker is a coworker. How you deal with them does not change.

Kids from rich families that never had to work don't understand the dynamics of a work environment and I personally don't hire hire them.

Let me tell you a story. So I got some prime shifts and asked a waitresses why a cook with more seniority did not get them. She said cause he bitches to the boss and the boss does not like that.

If you played college sports then that is also important. The coach is the boss. And your teammates are coworkers. If you had a college athletic scholarship then for sure include that.

  • Come on leave a comment. Why does this deserve a down vote?
    – paparazzo
    Dec 21, 2014 at 21:46
  • Adding a (well deserved) upvote to help compensate for whatever downvote took place. Oct 23, 2016 at 20:10

If you can say what you learned from that job about being a good worker (punctual, cheerful, proactive, good at dealing with customers, and so on), they certainly belong on your first few resumes.

After you've been in the working world for a while, you'll have better examples of those qualities and you'll almost certainly drop the teenage jobs off the resume.


Order matters

While in your particular case the unrelated jobs would look good on your resume for reasons that the other answers point out, for the generic question "Do career-unrelated jobs look bad on a resume?" the answer is that sometimes yes, they do look bad. And the answers should be applicable to other people where the question title is relevant, they're not meant for a single individual case.

The order of those unrelated jobs is important. Unrelated jobs at the beginning of your career are very common and okay. However, a gap of two years at unrelated jobs that comes after you have started at the niche where you're now applying - that would raise some questions. If someone has been a developer for three years, then has gone for a year on an apple orchard, and now wants to be a developer again... then the most obvious reasons why people did that (e.g. "got downsized and nobody wanted to hire me at my favourite profession" or "I found out that I hate software and went to countryside, but it pays too little so I came back") can raise red flags for interviewers.

  • Respectfully, that may have been true before the 2008-2011 Depression, but too many people went through this cycle through no fault of their own. You can't judge people by their work history through this period fairly. Dec 20, 2014 at 23:45
  • @WesleyLong you can't and you shouldn't, but recruiters do judge, so an applicant should think about this factor.
    – Peteris
    Dec 21, 2014 at 9:17

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .