Are you stuck staring at your resume and wondering how to explain your gap year in your next job application? If so, stop procrastinating and get back to it! BUT, before you do – read this article on how to make a gap year look good on a resume.

Writing a resume is never easy, and when it comes to listing your skills and experience, ‘not vomiting onboard Sail Croatia’ is not necessarily one you want to include. Neither is ‘working on my tan on Thailand’s beaches’ or ‘perfecting my Kiwi accent’. 

However, that doesn’t mean you should exclude your gap year from your resume altogether. If (or, when) you make it to a job interview, you’ll likely be asked how you spent the last year, so you’ll need to be ready with an (honest) explanation. And that’s going to be so much easier if you’ve already put it in your resume.

So how do you go about it?


How to make a gap year look good on your resume; Tailor your resume

A resume and a laptop on a bed.
Photo by João Ferrão on Unsplash

It’s important to remember to tailor your resume to each job you are applying for, so grab the job description and highlight the key skills the role requires. It’s time to match them to skills you used during your gap year. 

For example, does the job require problem-solving skills? You no doubt used those when your motorbike broke down in Vietnam and you had to find your way to a local mechanic. Does the job require teamwork? That time you carried the pack of your fellow hiker on the Inca Trail is a great example. The crew may not have made it to Machu Picchu otherwise!

Sometimes all it takes is a little creative thinking. 

You may actually be surprised how many times during your gap year you displayed skills any employer would appreciate. 


Look for skills relevant to your resume

A home office setup for someone working from home.
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

If you’re racking your brain on how to make a gap year look good on a resume and you’re trying to think of key skills, here are some more examples that you could add:


  • Problem-solving – Was there a time that something went wrong and you needed to solve the problem? Maybe an issue at your job abroad?


  • Planning and Organising – Did you plan your trip yourself? Were you responsible for booking flights, train tickets, accommodation, tours etc?


  • Communication – Did you need to communicate with fellow travellers, tour leaders, accommodation providers etc? What were some of the challenges? Did you face language barriers?

  • Time management / Self-management – Did you need to be out of bed at a certain time to make the tour / catch the flight? Did you organise a taxi to the airport and Airbnb accommodation?

  • Adaptability – Did your travel plans change? Did you miss a flight? How did you adapt to the situation? 


  • Teamwork – Was there a time you worked with or helped out others?

  • Initiative  – Did you decide to create your own travel plan instead of taking a packaged tour?

  • Learning  – Did you learn a language or a new skill while travelling? 

  • Leadership – Did you have to step up to make decisions and lead a group – it could be friends – in either a formal or informal setting.


Plan ahead for your gap year

A laptop on a desk.
Photo by Walling on Unsplash

Now if you’re in the process of planning a year abroad, there are some things you can do before you travel to make sure your gap year looks good on your resume when you return.

Consider what work you would like to apply for when you return. Then check job listings to see what kind of skills or experience those jobs require. You can then use the above list to plan some resume-friendly activities (for in between the bar-hopping, street food tasting and flirting with cute foreigners!)

Here are some to consider:


  • Working holiday 

Get a working holiday visa for your destination and you’ll be able to add valuable work experience to your resume whilst also living in and exploring a new location. 


  • Summer camp

Spend a summer teaching kids awesome outdoor and team building activities and you’re going to be piling the experience onto your resume. Think leadership, team working, planning and organisation, and time management skills.


  • Volunteering

Choose a volunteer assignment that relates to an industry you would like to work in, and you’ll be adding valuable experience to your resume. If you can’t find something that relates, any volunteering work can be a good example of giving your time to help others and make a difference.


  • Learning a language

Not only will you add a new skill to your resume, but get ready to add communication, initiative and problem-solving skills to your list!


  • Something out of your comfort zone 

Anything that requires you to step out of your comfort zone is going to show your initiative, adaptability and potentially also problem-solving skills. It shows you are willing to grow and challenge yourself, which will be a huge bonus for you personally as well as any potential employer. 


As we at The Lost Lot know, travelling on a gap year is both challenging and rewarding. But travelling doesn’t have to be at the expense of your career. The above shows you how to make a gap year look good on your resume and make both work.

So, don’t hold back, go and experience what the world has to offer and be ready to brag about it on your resume when you return!


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