How to Craft THE Gap Year CV

I can still remember the glee I felt when I quit my graduate job and drove home, feeling like a black cloud had dissipated and the sun was glinting on a newly visible horizon. It felt like freedom. It felt like possibility! But when I returned home and looked at my small pot of savings, it also felt deeply concerning.

Nevertheless, I knew what my next goal was: travelling. Okay, not very original I know but - as no great philosopher has ever said or will ever say - 'yolo'. And so off I went.

With absolutely no regrets but as a deeply ambitious individual, here's how I used my 'gap year' to make my CV dazzle:

  • Charitable Fundraising - Okay, so technically I was still at university while this was going on but it was also happening once I graduated and then when my graduate job was coming to an end. I fundraised £3000 in total through a successful charity night, bag packs, a summer fete, sponsored events etc. Stress, tears and many many lessons. Unknowingly at the time, my field would end up predominantly third sector of which my fundraising experience would be an invaluable contribution.

  • Enhanced Cultural Understanding - It sounds cliched but I really did enhance my cultural understanding. I worked abroad, I lived way outside my comfort zone, I worked in isolation doing mad shifts, I faced pythons and poisonous spiders and one wild horse who chased me around a cattle station. No one understood my Scottish accent. Australians generally don't know the difference between Irish and Scots. The wages were much better. Backpackers are some of the most insufferable and yet hardworking people I have ever met. Hostels should probably be used to research human (mis)behaviour. Most of what happened throughout my gap year will remain a beautiful, private secret. But for my CV, it definitely enhanced my cultural understanding.

  • Volunteering - I started writing for She Works while in Australia, having just returned from a month in Bali. I saw some of Katie Capstick's wonderful posts and I knew I wanted to be more active in a cause I believed in. She Works inspired me and so I started to produce work to submit. Aside from She Works, I now volunteer at a local tuition centre and hope to be involved with a local advocacy service. Volunteering is worthwhile, rewarding and time incredibly well spent. And it looks utterly fab on your CV - bonus!

  • Personal Projects - My gap year seems to be shifting into gap years...this is entirely my choice and I have worked hard to ensure I am in the position to do this. At the moment I have taken on temporary work to replenish my savings but my time is ultimately being used to pursue personal projects. The luxury of having a specific goal or purpose in life is not bestowed upon everyone. But I do think we all have something we wish we had more time for. Are you a talented baker? A craft-master? A skilled photographer? A musical genius? Pursue it. Put it out there. Believe in yourself and invest time in doing what you're passionate about. You won't regret it and neither will your future employer - it shows initiative, determination and an individual flair!

  • A Bold Life - If you take a gap year to foster idleness and a Netflix addiction that is your prerogative (and will likely be your regret). But if you venture out into the unknown with few belongings, a tenacious spirit and an unmistakable thirst for adventure then your gap year will speak for itself. How did you spend your time? I bush-walked, kayaked, sky-dived, snorkeled, sailed, scaled volcanoes, bathed in waterfalls, road-tripped, worked like a dog, volunteered, invested time in personal projects and had breathtaking conversations with fiercely intelligent and wonderful people. Spend your time well. Acknowledge your boldness.

What people often mistake about a 'gap year' is that no hard work is involved. That is not true. Travelling, living and being intrepid is the hardest work of all. But it also has the ability to unlock immeasurable happiness and teach essential life skills. The experience certainly deserves a place on your CV if you have done it well. Who said hard work can't be fun? Who said a gap year is unproductive? Mostly, it's about perspective. So settle your gaze nowhere and take a broad look around - I bet you've done wonderful things. Embrace them. Recognise them. A Gap Year is just another phrase for time. And after all, time is - in Maya Angelou's gorgeous words - 'an imponderably valuable gift'. Use it well.