From Waitress to Career Woman: Making Irrelevant Job Experience Relevant on your Resume

From the day I got my working papers, all I was concerned with was making money. I wasn’t concerned with what kind of job to look for and I certainly was not thinking how it would affect my career path in the future.

Working in the restaurant industry is a relatively easy, quick money-making job and isn’t necessarily hard to get. Six years after I started, I found myself at the same restaurant, waiting tables. I then got another job working in the wine industry – needless to say, if I was going into the hospitality field, I’d be the ideal candidate. However, I’m not. I am majoring in criminal justice and psychology, which couldn’t be farther from what I’ve known majority of my life. Or so I thought. ENCPhoto6

Three weeks away from graduation, I sat down to apply for a job, and I found myself thinking, what are you supposed to do when your trying to tailor your resume to a job in which you have no related work experience?

I asked myself, what does serving food and wine for the have to do with working within the criminal justice system? Immediately, I thought the answer was absolutely nothing. While the two may not seem as though they relate very closely, I have found there are ways to make seemingly irrelevant work experience, relevant on your resume and overall to your desired path.

Rule #1: Pay Attention to the key words.

ENCPhoto7When you come across a job opportunity and read through the description, what may seem like minor details, may actually be the most important. You should be paying attention to key words, and the overall wording of the description. As a matter of fact, many resumes are now subject to keyword searches, which will highlight the resumes that match the requirements. Including certain words within the resume will make your resume stick out and portray you as an ideal candidate, while emphasizing your related experience.

I was tailoring my resume towards a job description that included important words such as, financial, management,  resolution,  and customer relations. When I was writing my resume, I initially had “handled cash and credit card transactions” under the waitress section. Now that is okay, but it needed to be altered to include the words used in the job posting. I changed that specific responsibility to, “high level skills in dispute resolution and financial management” thus making it more relevant to the job description.

Rule #2: Always include transferable skills.

ENCPhoto8Transferable skills are ones that can be beneficial in a variety of jobs, and it is important to sell these skills to a prospective employer. Identify what these skills are, and then see how they can be used.

Waiting tables offers a wealth of different transferable skills that may not be recognized to be beneficial in any other career. Communication skills and the ability to multi-task, are just a few skills waitress’ are experts at. They are also skills that hold you at a high advantage as a candidate for any job, so do not forget to include these important skills in your resume.

Rule #3: Don’t give up.

If you were debating whether to completely omit the waitressing job from your resume, think again. Re-evaluate what it has taught you and the skills it forced you to obtain without you even realizing it. It may have not offered you the clerical, administrative experience, but it definitely strengthened your communication skills, customer service skills, multi-tasking abilities, and overall gave you an array of skill sets that are relevant to any career. Lastly, don’t give up on a potential career path if you have had no relevant experience. The skills you have learned may one day make you the ideal career person.


Erin Van Etten is a senior at the University of South Florida studying criminal justice and psychology. She also works as a Case Manager for the 13th Judicial Administrative Office of the Courts.

One thought on “From Waitress to Career Woman: Making Irrelevant Job Experience Relevant on your Resume

  1. I found this blog very helpful, interesting, and engaging. Being a college student having only worked in the restaurant industry too, I found the information presented very useful for when I plan on writing my resume. The overall conversational tone of the blog was done very well, and I didn’t feel like I was reading a step-by-step hand guide. This blog was very innovative in the way the topic was approached and presented the message effectively.
    -Justine McDaniel

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