Should you list irrelevant work experience on graduate school applications?
1) If we're asking, we want to know. It's fine to list workplaces that seem irrelevant -- for the (professional) graduate program I teach in, a little workplace seasoning is a distinct plus no matter how connected it is to the program. Moreover, some of our applicants are surprised by the variety of experiences we find relevant. (Retail? You bet. Sales? Absolutely. Office temping? We won't have to teach you what a memo is, good.) So yes, it's "permissible" to leave these jobs out, but you're more likely to hurt than help yourself thereby.
2) Rule of thumb: if you wouldn't put it on your résumé, we don't need to know about it. If you babysit regularly enough that you have certifications and know CPR, sure, tell us about that. Help out the neighbors with their kids occasionally? We don't need to know, and we'll suspect that you're trying to pad your application.
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SAH over 1 year
(1) On graduate school applications that ask for a work history, is it permissible to omit jobs--such as waitressing, temping, working retail--that have nothing to do with the program to which you are applying?
(2) If so, where is the line drawn to make a job something you are truly expected to report on the application? If you babysit now and then, do odd jobs for a day, or "help out" in a store for a few weeks, are admissions committees truly interested in knowing that? More to the point, is it dishonest to leave it out?
For an idea of the specific context, here is text from one graduate school's question about employment history:
"[List] employment experience (including part-time) since secondary school""
I ask about the general case here.
SAH over 6 years
J.R. over 6 yearsI agree; it would be easy for a candidate to think something isn't pertinent when in reality there are subtle connections. If nothing else, someone might avoid the appearence of doing nothing for an entire summer, when in reality they were, say, cutting grass at a golf course. All that time on the mower may not help the applicant in their graduate chemistry program, but at least they've made it plain that they weren't just being lazy for two or three months.