9 Ways to Make Your Post Gap Year Resume Shine

by Published

How to put gap year on resume—

You’ve conquered that backer-packer lifestyle and jogged a few times around the globe. A month here. A few weeks there. Long train rides, short skips on the peddle-jumpers, and less than perfect overnight bus rides. Or maybe you fit right into a community where you planted yourself for a while. Whatever your travel tale, all good things must come to an end. As one good thing ends, it gives room for another good thing to begin.

Person typing on laptop

Applying for jobs after your gap year will be easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy with these tips.

Entering into the workforce might be a bit daunting after your your gap year. Wait, back up. Re-entering your home country and culture might be daunting. It can be tough moving home and starting anew. Most likely, as you begin to re-establish yourself, finding work will be on your to-do list.  As you peruse online job boards searching for that next good thing, you might not be sure how to put that gap year on your resume. Luckily, with a few tips here, you can really make your gap year resume shine.

Including international experience on your resume is a sinch. Think both about the experience globally, as well as the daily - that nitty-gritty. It’s simply a matter of translating those experiences into professional terms.

Why do employers care if you did a gap year?

Employers love to see stability—that’s why it’s important you know how to include international experience on your resume.They also appreciate commitment. They want to see that drive and passion of yours brought to their office. Basically, they want to know why you took a gap year and what you can bring to their table. They want to be sure that if they invest their time and energy in you, that you too, will invest your time and energy into them. They simply want a mutual exchange - that’s it.  At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what you have done or where exactly you have gone (to your employer, anyway). What does matter is if you can translate what you have done into the role or position they are looking to fill - there’s a big difference.

What’s your next move?

Grad school? An internship in San Fran? Or maybe a professional j-o-b? Consider your audience before sitting down to draft your gap year resume. You should have a different resume for each of the examples listed. As your grow academically and professionally, so too should your CV (that’s curriculum vitae, if you weren’t sure). What’s important for one gig, might not be relevant for another. Though you might be wicked proud of your accomplishments and past achievements (and you should be!), they might not be necessary to tag onto your gap year resume. 

Keeping in mind your target audience (readers!) will help you organize what to include and sometimes more importantly, what not to include on on your post-gap year CV/resume. Think about how you can transfer your existing skill set (in the recruitment world known as “transferable skills”) to the new endeavour that you envision yourself falling in love with. How you apply your knowledge is just as important, if not more, than the knowledge alone that you posses.

Passport and boarding pass

Don’t forget that your international experience will add extra sparkle!

7 tips for your gap year resume

From proof-reads to self-reflection, take some time to develop your soon-to-be stellar new document. It might seem overwhelming and unbearable, staring at that blinking cursor on a blank document. Great resumes take multiple drafts, they aren’t something that happens overnight. Here’s how to put gap year on you resume.

1. Use keywords

Carefully read the job description for the position that you are applying for. Take note of the words and phrases that are used in the listing. Give it right back to them! If you’re going to be reading, writing, and making phone calls, weave those verbs into the job summaries from your former (or perhaps, current) life. Be honest, of course. The idea is to tune into what employers are looking for and use that to give your gap year resume. Reflecting their voice is important.

2. Chronological vs. functional resumes

One way isn’t better than the other —you decide what’s best for you. Chronological resumes are best if you’re well established in your career and simply wanting a horizontal or vertical move. Functional resumes are great documents to help explain on skills and experiences not strictly professional. These are ones that can help you put your gap year on that resume. For example, in the context of your work experiences, if you title that section “Relevant Experience,” then put your experiences from most to least relevant. This one is how to include international experience on resume, right here! This would be more a feature on more of a functional resume. If you simply title that section “Work Experience,” then compile only your work experience here. Oh, and put it in chronological order. And as you might have guessed (you genius, you), this is a chronological, or more traditional format.

3. Use color...wisely

Many traditionalist will say that you shouldn’t have color on your resume. Tomato, tomato. (You see?) Color is more than acceptable, but use it wisely. Make something aesthetically pleasing, and again, keeping your audience in mind. A splash of color can make an exciting difference on your document. But, too much can be loud and distracting. Your gap year CV will be the employer’s first impression of you. A bit of color can leave a lasting impression on them.

Colorful paint dripping down wall

Avoid going too crazy with colors on your resume.

4. Showcase international experience

How to include those international experiences on your resume? Usually we have different sections on our resumes like education, honors and awards, publications, and work experience. Sometimes we have so many diverse experiences that we don’t know where to put everything. 

CALL ‘EM RELEVANT EXPERIENCES! Creating a section titled “Relevant Experience” is an excellent remedy if you’re not sure how to put your gap year on your resume. This is also a great heading for those of us who don’t have a lot of strictly work experience or those who have never worked before.

5. Highlight your cross-cultural communication skills

If you’ve taken a gap year, and certainly a gap year abroad, you definitely experienced some sort of cross-cultural communication barrier, and if you’re reading this, you survived—congratulations! Consider highlighting your freshly polished cross-cultural communication skills on your resume. Being able to communicate on a multitude of levels is something nearly every employers appreciates. 

Communication skills are much more than the language(s) you speak. Of course these skills include verbal communication, but it’s are much more inclusive. Have you ever thought about the way that you use your hands for all your funny stories, or how you smile to simply acknowledge someone. What about your eye contact? Are you the passive aggressive type, or more direct? This is all communication! 

Highlight your communication skills with the buzz term, “cultural fluency” and ask no longer how to include your international experience on your resume!

This one has never been more important. Great, you can speak Italian! But being fluent is more than the grammar and a vocabulary of the language. Being competent in the cultural is just as important as being able to speak the language flawlessly. With more people speaking a foreign language than ever, show us what sets you apart. Maybe that year in Tuscany taught you what Italian culture really is. Cultural fluency is an important aspect when working with people in diverse cultural contexts.

group of students/people working together at coffee shop

Cross-cultural communication skills? ✅

6. Show you’ve got initiative

Let your initiative shine on your resume. Not everyone decides to take off a year and try something drastically different. But for some reason, you did. You took the initiative. Weave this into your fancy new resume and show those employers who’s boss. Use verbs or phrases like initiated, directed, kicked-off, or launched. You know what you did!

7. Emphasize adaptability

Being adaptable is an important skill you have in that back pocket of yours. Remember when you showed up in Taiwan for you gap year and you couldn’t charge your electric toothbrush? It was a nuisance, no? That toothbrush wasn’t exactly adaptable. You, on the other hand, you’re a different story. After a year abroad, you are much more resilient than you were before. (side note, don’t forget to brush your teeth before that interview. First impressions…)

8. Now you’re a critical thinker

To survive a gap year, you must have done (at least) a little bit of critical thinking. Keep that cap on and translate how your critical thinking skills will make you their next stellar employer. Squeeze the most out of your time abroad and show them how you can approach problems from alternative angles. Reflect on some of the obstacles that you overcame. Maybe it was related to hectic travel delays, or you happened across an emergency, what about when you saved the day with a rubber band or when you used your water bottle in an innovative way. Give it a good thought. Put that thinking cap back on ;)

9. Proofread it

Duh, right? But, after you edit it once… edit it again. Your year in South America might not be memorable at all if you absentmindedly say “their” when you really meant to say “there.” Read it out loud. Send it to a few friends. Ask a sibling to give it a good look. You can never have too many eyes, to give you a hand.

Pro tip: Keep your gap year spirit alive—add more travel experience to your resume!

Gif, Parks & Rec, Andy: Whats great about you? Im nice.

Really sell yourself on your gap year resume.

Don’t stop there! Why not keeping traveling and add more international experiences to your resume? Keep on exploring! It’s never a bad idea to be intentional about what we do. Think about where you want to go and how this could benefit you landing your dream job (someday). Consider working abroad to spruce up your gap year resume while putting a little cash in the account. Our Online Advisor is a nifty tool that can provide you with customized advice on meaningful travel. Share your travel dreams with us and we’ll help you along your way. 

Your gap year is what will get you HIRED

Your post-gap year CV is only a few tweaks away from being in the hands of that eager-to-hire manager. With a little thought, some decent formatting, and the right keywords, your post gap year resume is bound to shine. Besides, once you get that interview, they will either want to hear all about it because they wish they had done that gap year like you, or they’ll tell you all about their year abroad—it’s bound to be part of the conversation. 

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