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Worried about a hole opening up on your student or graduate CV because of the coronavirus? Our tips will help you to fill it and present your lockdown experience in the best light.

Use details from what you did during lockdown to add to your CV story.

If the coronavirus has disrupted your summer or career-related plans – perhaps you had an internship lined up that didn’t happen or a charity fundraising project for RAG or you were planning to backpack your way across Australia or pull pints at the local pub – you may be worried about a hole showing up on your CV.

Now, lockdown isn’t a gap on your CV that you will need to account for or one that you should feel the need to disguise. It would be an unreasonable employer who would expect you to have undertaken an internship or had a part-time job during a pandemic and, as explained in our feature on dealing with gaps on your CV, university holidays, gap years and taking six months to get your first graduate role aren’t unusual holes in any case.

Having said that, a CV’s job is to present you in the best possible light and you will want to use yours to convey who you are as a person; careers coaches call this CV storytelling and we explore how to do this in more detail in our six steps to the perfect CV feature. You can use details from what you did during lockdown to add to your CV story – activities you write about might convey how proactive you are, how resilient you are, how caring you are, how keen you are to develop skills, how interested you are in a specific sector and so on. This is the case even if, at first glance, your actions don’t sound CV-worthy. It’s all about presenting them in the right light.

What activities from lockdown can you put on your CV?

If you want to use lockdown to add to your story, you need to show that you used the time to develop skills or knowledge or to gain insights into your coping mechanisms. Avoid giving the impression you did nothing with the time – and we reckon you did more than you think, even if you were shielding. So, for example, you could write about:

  • any volunteering work you have done – this includes helping a vulnerable neighbour with their shopping (describe, for example, how regularly you were doing the shopping and how it came about – did you put a postcard through their door?).
  • any charity fundraising you’ve taken part in.
  • how you helped care for younger siblings during lockdown while your parents worked (students and graduates almost never put babysitting on their CV, which is a missed opportunity because it shows real responsibility).
  • the details of any moocs or online courses you’ve done, including learning languages.
  • the details of any webinars you watched or attended – provide the title and the dates. If you have watched or taken part in industry discussions (a number of professional bodies and societies have run these) it can provide evidence of your interest in the sector.
  • how you have taken up a new fitness interest due to lockdown (eg you got into running) or how your regular class moved on to Zoom.

Activities such as watching Netfix, gaming, reading and cooking during lockdown could add a talking point to your CV in these unprecedented times – just don’t make the mistake of just writing ‘cooking, watching Netflix and gaming’ under an Interests section on your CV! Instead, you need to turn them into a bit of a project, an activity that shows a bit of direction or drive and that you have achieved something through it. These are two examples of how you can do this:

  • My personal lockdown project was to read the entire Discwold series of novels and short stories in order of publication, not sub-series, and the Science of Discworld series to further my love of fantasy and science. I got to #25 The Truth and the second science book before lockdown eased.
  • I’ve always been interested in cooking and I took over meal planning, shopping and cooking during lockdown as my housemates were essential workers. I fed us to a budget and developed my skills by trying out new recipes, including working through the weekday dinners in Shizuo Tsuji’s Japanese Cooking.

If you include something similar, be able to talk about it confidently during interviews and assessment centres; you never know if your interviewer will be a Pratchett fan or will have a penchant for Japanese cuisine.

Where do you put these lockdown activities on your CV?

This will depend on the structure and layout of your CV; if you use the structure that we recommend for most students and graduates who have followed a traditional route from school to university, you will be following a tweaked chronological layout (see our guide and template) and you can choose your own headings and group together activities and interests however you like.

How much detail and space you want to give your lockdown time will depend on what else you have to put on your CV (your previous part-time jobs, extracurriculars etc). You could, for example, add your voluntary work during lockdown as a bullet point to a section called ‘Work experience and voluntary work’ if you have other items to put into that section. You could put moocs into your ‘Education’ section and add webinars to a section on ‘Involvement with professional bodies’. Alternatively, particularly if you have limited work experience, you could make a feature of lockdown life and have a section called ‘Lockdown projects’.

As we say, you don’t need to refer to lockdown and the coronavirus at all, but consider doing so if it adds weight to the overall impression your CV creates.

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