Are gap years good for your CV?

Can gap years actually benefit your CV? Is there a ‘right way’ to take one and is there an age limit on this sort of break? 

Today’s topic is inspired by this HR News post. Its headline states that gap years can ‘help applicants stand out.’

  • 63% of HR professionals think this is the case, according to YouGov.
  • As 44% of businesses rate ‘experience’ as more important than a degree, the gap year may also provide some valuable practical insights and skills.
  • This is all good news for the 88% of students who chose to take a gap year specifically to increase their employability.

There’s one important phrase that crops up several times in the post, however, and that’s the mention of ‘constructive’ gap years. This brings us to the following question…

Is there a right way to approach a gap year?

Of course, if you’re just looking to take a break from your studies or career (we’ll come to the latter shortly) you could spend your time doing whatever you please.

However, if you’re thinking along the lines of enhancing your employability, this is where the constructive bit comes into the equation.

The sort of break that looks best on your CV is one that features paid and or voluntary work. Each of which can increase your skill-set, confidence (alongside other attributes) and general experience in a variety of ways.

Is there an age limit on this sort of break?

Not when you consider that gap years can be referred to as ‘sabbaticals’.

Experienced professionals can also use this time to learn new skills and gain experience in sectors that they’re eager to pursue.

Is there a right way to feature your gap year on your CV?

Yes! Far from simply leaving a gap in your career history  – no pun intended! – you want to let prospective employers know how you used your time to their potential benefit.

Treat this as you would any other role. Provide the dates of your break, an overview of what you were doing, and real-world examples of your skills and achievements.

As ever, the specific details you provide should also be tailored to your applications.

But what if you can’t afford to take one?

We can’t all afford to take gap years, whether due to financial constraints or other life commitments. Don’t think this will hamper your applications and never force yourself to take one thinking it will definitely improve your employability. There are no guarantees of the latter! What’s more, there are so many other ways to make your CV stand out.

One of the best tips has already been shared above. Tailor each application with genuine examples of your skills and achievements from your employment, education and voluntary roles to date. Make it obvious to the employer why you’re the best match for their role; don’t leave anything to guesswork!

Ready to send your CV? You can apply for individual jobs directly or upload your CV as a general applicant. If you’d rather email your CV, here’s what to include in your cover note