I've spoken with several people recently who have each said the exact same thing when we sat down to discuss their work experience in more detail: "That's not relevant". This statement usually comes up when we're exploring all of the unique things they've done during their careers, and often happens when we're talking about how to position their experience in the very best way to maximise their chances of success when applying for a specific role they're particularly interested in.
It's really common for people considering career changes to presume all or some of their experience either doesn't matter, isn't important, or just won't apply to the requirements of a role they want to apply for. This isn't just the case with people applying for jobs at new companies - this happens with people exploring internal opportunities at the company they already work at too. It's often a case of people de-valuing themselves and lacking self-belief in what they have done, and what they are actually capable of.
In the past when I've interviewed candidates, have been listening to their responses and asked to probe further into something particular they've said, the response I've received has sometimes been "Oh, thanks for asking, I didn't include it in my resume as knew it wasn't relevant". In this situation they had presumed already that this chapter of their experience wouldn't be relevant for me, had made a conscious decision to leave it out of their application, and dismissed it as not important.
Automatically assuming something about your experience is "not relevant" can result in:
Your actual value being lower than it could be, with potential employers (who could actually be a wonderful fit for you) not understanding who you really are and what you could actually add to their company
Missed opportunities, where you decide not to take the chance to apply for unique roles that you'd actually really like to explore because you've already convinced yourself your experience won't be relevant
A stagnant situation where you feel completely stuck, but aren't moving forward - because you believe you aren't equipped with any relevant experience to start making changes
Let's look at "Peter". Peter works in a factory, where he's responsible for managing a high volume of clothing production each day, making sure it is packed into vehicles and sent to the correct delivery addresses all over Australia. He's worked there for nearly eight years, and this was his first role after finishing high school. He generally likes it, but tends to complain quite often to his partner that he's bored, and gets a bit jealous of his friends who seem to quite like what they do.
In the evenings after work, Peter likes to take apart and re-build electrical items, as he really enjoys this. He works with televisions, speakers, microphones, the works. He fixes things for friends when they break as he seems to have a knack for it. He also reads books on electrical engineering, and participates in online chat discussions with other electrical enthusiasts whenever he comes up against roadblocks and wants to check what he's doing is right, or to learn new things.
A job comes up at his factory for an electrical apprentice, but Peter immediately knows he won't get the job as he doesn't have any qualifications or experience - after all, he only counts and packs the clothes, and that's all he knows. Peter doesn't consider applying, as he already knows his hobby isn't relevant, and believes his experience so far in the factory definitely isn't relevant either, so thinks "what's the point?" Peter has decreased his value to his employer by not sharing his interest in fixing electrical items with them, has missed out on a potentially life-changing opportunity to do something he's passionate about, and is remaining where he is, scared to make a change.
The wide variety of experiences people have throughout their careers make them who they are today, and you should be proud of everything you've done to get to this stage in your career. A good recruiter/employer will understand how someone's experiences have shaped them, and will look outside the box to see how these these experiences could add value to their company. So - next time you find yourself thinking "it's not relevant" - it might be worth giving that a second thought.
Sian Havard is Founder at Milkshake Group, a Brisbane, Australia based consultancy which coaches people around the world looking for awesome careers. Find us at www.milkshakegroup.com