How to Explain a Gap Year on Your Resume

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Tips and Examples for Explaining a Gap Year

A gap year can take many forms: A year in a kibbutz in Israel. Volunteering in Guatemala. Teaching English in Vietnam. Skiing on slopes across the globe. Caring for a sick parent post-college. This year can often be a world-opening, beneficial experience. While they primarily occur in the year preceding or following college, you may also choose to take a gap year between jobs. That can seem particularly appealing if you are laid off with generous severance or quit a high-stress job that doesn’t feel like the right path forward.

A gap year can be, as its name implies, a year long. When you end your gap year and seek to return to the workforce, you might find it challenging to figure out how to list this time on your resume. It won’t necessarily fit into the “experience” and “education” sections.

And yet, you likely gained a lot of experience and knowledge during your time away from the workforce.

Here is some key advice on how to approach mentioning your gap year on your resume.

Create a Non-Chronological Resume

One option, of course, is to leave your gap year off your resume and diminish its visibility. There are many different types of resumes, and while a chronological one, which lists your most recent experience first, is most common, it’s not the only option. You can also create a functional resume, which focuses on your skills and experience, rather than when you gained them.

A functional resume might be particularly appealing if your gap year has a more recreational feel or if it happened because of personal family circumstances that you’d prefer not to detail.

With a functional resume, you can include any skills you picked up during your gap year while not listing how you spent the time outright.

List Your Gap Year Under Experience

If you worked, taught, or volunteered, this is a valuable experience. Why hide it? You can list this just like any other role in the “experience” section of your resume. Your gap year may also show that you’re a leader, independent, or possess other qualities desired at many companies.

As you write up a description of your gap year experience, take note of the job posting. Tailor your points to emphasize the skills mentioned in the job description as well as the required tasks. (Here’s advice on how to match your qualifications to a role.)

Aim to use powerful, action-oriented verbs and quantify your accomplishments and tasks as much as possible.

Here are examples of how to list a gap year in your experience section:

ESL Teacher — September 2018-August 2019

  • Taught conversational English to adult learners in Tokyo, Japan.
  • Developed curricula for two levels of English speakers, basic and intermediate
  • Taught 6 three-hour classes per week
  • Brainstormed and implemented program improvements during weekly meetings

Volunteer at California Resettlement Nonprofit Organization — August 2018-December 2018

  • Worked to coordinate volunteer efforts in the wake of the California wildfires.
  • Assigned tasks and work rotations to 500+ volunteers
  • Coordinated with FEMA and other organizations to find shelter options for people displaced by wildfires

It can sometimes be helpful to include only the year (and not the month) when you worked or volunteered at jobs for short periods of time.

Include Your Gap Year in a Breakout Section of Your Resume

If your gap year time feels discordant with the rest of your resume — for instance, if you have a string of accountant jobs and then spent a year building access to clean water — you might want to set it off in a different section.

You might call this section “International Experience,” “Volunteer Experience,” “International Travel,” or “Additional Activities & Experience.”

Do Highlight Gap Year Accomplishments Throughout Your Resume

Most likely, you learned and grew a lot as a person during your gap year. And while some of what you learned may not help in the business world (like the ability to find the cheapest hostel, say), other skills may be applicable.

Add Skills to Your Resume: Some skills you may have gained are: speaking a foreign language, communication, planning and coordinating, and budgeting. Depending on how you spent your gap year, you may have other skills to add (or remove) from this list. You can include these skills in the write-up of your gap year experience as well as in the skills section of your resume.

Use the Summary Section: Think of this section as telling a (short) story about you — who you are, what you’ve accomplished, and what you want to work on next. In that framing, it makes logical sense that your gap year might be helpful to include. For instance, your summary section may read: “World-traveler and experienced ESL teacher looking for a role teaching the Spanish language to middle school students.”

Bottom line

Go beyond thinking of your gap year as a fun break and consider what achievements and skills you’ve gained along with how they potentially apply to your next role. Then, include this insight on your resume.


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