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I am a soon to be undergraduate college student and I want to apply for a STEM based internship at a car company. My past work experience is pretty basic. I worked part time as cashier in my school's lunch line, part time as a swim coach for a club swim team, and I worked in maintenance (janitorial stuff) full time for my school district.

The internship I'm applying for has nothing to do with any of these things, so I feel like I shouldn't include them in my past work experience/resume. At the same time, including my past work shows that I've had experience working with people and just work experience in general. What should I do?

marked as duplicate by David K, JasonJ, Michael Grubey, HorusKol, gnat May 25 '17 at 0:21

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I actually just interviewed someone today for a life science internship. They were senior year, ready to graduate in a related field and wanted some domain experience with what my company does. So, their resume had a tangentially related work experience working in their university's lab.

When I talked to the internship candidate, something they kept saying was "I don't have any experience." This didn't make sense to me because, as we talked, they spoke about the project they did at the university: a full front-to-back experimental troubleshooting that started with a question: Why doesn't protocol X work in our hands but it does in the publisher's? They tested all the different possibilities and optimized a protocol that, going forward, the department could use year after year to teach students. There was a hefty team component as well as the opportunity to develop other skills. They also spoke about assistantship positions in clinical offices that build on critical hard and soft skills. And to top it off they didnt list this because they thought it had nothing to do with my company.

This isn't no experience. It's actually quite valuable, in addition to other components such as researching our company beforehand and rehearsing on some common interview questions.

When you go into an interview, assume you're the right person for the job and you need to sell me on why. No internship is going to expect you already have training in the tasks they have in store, but internships are a battlefield of applicants where you need to stand out. For me, having any job experience is better than none.

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The internship I'm applying for has nothing to do with any of these things

Actually, it does. Just because prior work experience isn't directly in the field you're applying within does not make it any less important or evident that you have experience working, taking direction, handling important product/information, interacting with coworkers, etc.

Companies understand you won't have direct experience working with the material you will be working with, but they do want to know that you will be willing to LEARN the material, show up to work, actually do your work, etc.

Your past "basic" jobs prove you are experienced, which is always relevant.

Now as time goes on and you have a couple jobs/internships that are more relevant and take up space on your resume, then you can start leaving off the irrelevant jobs as they probably won't add much value and will take up unnecessary space.

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Put them on. As you say - it shows that you can handle money, supervise people and fix things. Add in your IT experience, and you should be able to pass an intern level interview.

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The internship I'm applying for has nothing to do with any of these things, so I feel like I shouldn't include them in my past work experience/resume. At the same time, including my past work shows that I've had experience working with people and just work experience in general. What should I do?

When you're just starting out, nobody will expect you to have much in the way of experience that's relevant to the job or internship that you're applying for. If you have prior work experience of any kind, put it down -- it'll give some indication that you have basic skills that are useful in any job, like regularly showing up on time, following instructions, working with others, etc. It also gives interviewers something that they can ask about, and you never know when something might create a connection: So, you were a swimming coach for a while? I coach my daughter's team -- those early mornings practices are tough, huh? Interviewers want to get to know you a little bit so that they can decide not only whether you're able to do the job, but also whether you're someone with whom they and their team will enjoy working, so getting a conversation going will help.

Eventually you'll have enough relevant experience that you won't need to include those first jobs, and that's fine -- you don't have to leave them on forever.

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