Unrelated study might offer real value
Patricia Maloney, Career Coach, Galway

Q: I am applying for a job. At the moment, I am also doing a part-time college course in an unrelated field and am wondering if I should mention this in the application? I don’t want them to think that my attention lies elsewhere or that my concentration will not be total. What do you think? (AC, email).

A: As with so many other scenarios in the careers arena, this is a judgement call for you. Stick or twist? My instinct is to include items of study rather than exclude them, writes Patricia Maloney, Career Coach, Sli Nua Careers.

Your part-time study could say a great deal about you in terms of your commitment to learning. You’re taking yourself out of the fabled comfort zone. You’re alive and kicking. Employers gravitate to people like that.

The alternative scenario, whereby you are not acquiring new skills or knowledge, may worry them a great deal more than this bit on the side, so to speak.

Of course, if the course you’re doing heralds a possible move into a new sector, and could result in some awkward questions for you in the interview, it might be more judicious to leave it out. If it’s just another skill you are acquiring, rather than embarking on a whole new career path, I would not be afraid of mentioning it in your application.

I would also query whether or not this piece of study is actually unrelated, as you say. Sometimes people think the courses they are doing, or the hobbies they pursue, have no connection to their current role, whereas they might well represent something relevant – if not in your current role, then possibly in another position within the same company.

An example of this might be the engineer I know who studied data protection while working in a construction firm. The two may appear unconnected at first view but, as we found out in the great General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) rush of 2018, companies found themselves badly in need of people who could bring some order to their data protection procedures.

The engineer was the solution. The combination of her knowledge of the company, allied to her growing awareness of data protection, meant that she was the ideal person to take on the GDPR role. The owner nearly bit her hand off when she volunteered to ‘take a look at it’.

This apparently disparate area of study enhanced her standing within the company. So perhaps instead of hiding your course away, you might consider trumpeting it.

Indeed, a strategic employee might even consider selecting a field of study that could one day prove valuable. Looking back on it, data protection was always likely to come down the tracks – but looking back we have the most perfect, 20/20 vision. Can you see something else that might emerge in the years ahead? Google ‘jobs of the future’ and see if you can spot anything interesting.

As I said at the outset, AC, all of this is a judgement call, but I would need to hear very persuasive arguments to justify its exclusion – and if those are not available, I would argue for it being left in.

There must be a very good reason to take it out. I hope this helps, and best of luck.

Patricia Maloney is a Career Coach with Sli Nua Careers.

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