How to Explain a Gap Year/Career Break on Your Resume

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One of the biggest things that puts people off taking a gap year, career break or sabbatical is the worry that they’ll struggle to find a job when they get back (as future employers might view this time away with ill favor).

With the economy as it is, the last thing most people want to do is leave their job, go traveling and damage their chances of future employment.

Thankfully, providing you account for/explain your time away properly (on your resume) and providing you actually do something worthwhile during that time, taking a gap year/career break will actually make you more attractive to future employers (for many reasons).

Here’s how to best represent your time abroad on your resume/CV:

What Should You Write About?

When writing about your time off from work on your resume it’s important that you write about the right things. For example, don’t mention that you spent 9 months lounging around on a beach not doing a whole lot as it’ll make you seem lazy.

Think about the things you did whilst traveling and you they relate to improving key skills.

Providing you weren’t partying and sitting on a beach the whole time, the chances are you did some pretty constructive things (such as learning, teaching others, volunteering or working abroad), and even if you were sitting on a beach all year long, you can at least talk about your budgeting skills in regards to working out (and sticking to) a daily budget.

It’s all about framing your experiences in a professional light and showing how your time away benefited you as a person.

Beach Sunset

Key Skills to Write About
You might not have realized it, but during your time traveling you’ll have improved upon several key skills. These could be:

  • Budgeting Skills – As I mentioned earlier, unless you’re a millionaire the chances are you had to come up with some kind of budget for your trip (and then stick to it). Creating and sticking to a budget takes commitment and determination, and requires you to accurately estimate your costs.
  • Planning Skills – When you’re traveling on the road you’ll constantly be planning and making decisions. You’ll constantly be in unfamiliar environments, so all routine goes out the window (forcing you to make more decisions). Questions such as “Where shall we go next?”, “How long shall we stay there?” and “Where shall we have lunch?” all require proper consideration and planning.
  • Negotiation Skills – Being able to negotiate in the business world is often what separates the men from the boys, whether it’s negotiating a business deal or a raise. During you time traveling, it’s likely that you visited a market or two and haggled with the local vendors over the price of their wares. Haggling is a great way to learn how to negotiate, and will teach you how to come out of a negotiation favorably.
  • Communication Skills – Traveling to foreign lands and communicating with locals and fellow travelers will teach you how to overcome language/cultural barriers, and will teach you how to communicate with people from all walks of life on a personal level. Such skills are very useful to have in business.
  • Adaptability – When you’re traveling it’s common for things to occasionally go wrong and for you to have to make sudden changes to your plans. Buses might be cancelled. Wallets could get stolen. Natural disasters might occur. Being able to think on your feet, make snap decisions and able to adapt to new situations without losing your cool is something that employers greatly admire.

All of these skills should be listed on your resume, and you should have a ready-made anecdote relating to each one (e.g. how your time traveling improved each skill).

Activities You May Have Done

During career breaks/gap years, people often undertake in activities such as volunteering and working abroad. There are many skills you will have learnt/improved upon as a result of doing such activities that you can write about on your resume:

Working Abroad
If you worked abroad during your career break/gap year, make sure to write about the kind of work you did, where you did it and what your responsibilities were.

This is particularly important to highlight if the work you were doing is related to the field you want to get into (e.g. teaching abroad if you want to be a teacher).

Being able to say (and show on your resume) that you volunteered somewhere during your career break/gap year will endear you to everyone (including employers).

Volunteering shows that you’re responsible and committed to giving back to the world, helping others and expanding your horizons.

Be sure to note what your voluntary project was in aid of (e.g. building houses or maintaining a local habitat) and where and when it took place.

Remember – being well-traveled and having done amazing things will make you stand out to employers, so don’t try and hide these things and don’t be ashamed of them! Providing you describe them in a professional and analytical manner, you’ll have an edge over your competition.

Related posts:

  1. How to Work Full-Time in Your Gap Year (Without Damaging Your Career Prospects)
  2. Gap Year Courses
  3. A Look at the Top 5 Gap Year Jobs
  4. Parents: Is a Gap Year Spent Volunteering Good for Your Teenager?
  5. The Advantages and Disadvantages of Taking a Gap Year

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