Filling a coronavirus-shaped gap on your CV

21 Jun 2023, 15:38

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.

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There’s no doubt that the coronavirus pandemic, lockdowns, travel bans and social distancing requirements will have disrupted your life, work and study plans. And, if you haven’t been able to undertake internships, part-time work, gap year travels and other extracurricular activities, you may be concerned about a gap opening up on your CV.

Do not worry about 2020 and 2021 being a gap on your CV that you need to account for. It would be an unreasonable employer who would expect you to have undertaken an internship or had a part-time job during lockdown or social distancing restrictions. But, 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. Below we give you some suggestions on how you can use your lockdown experiences to do that.

However, the longer the pandemic goes on and the more that things begin to open up, the more recruiters will expect you to find ways to develop the skills and knowledge they seek in graduate hires, along with an understanding of the industry sector you wish to join. So, we give you tips on how to do this, too, even if life doesn’t return to normal for some time.

What activities from the 2020 and 2021 pandemic restrictions can you put on your CV?

The backbone of any good CV is something that career coaches call good CV storytelling . You can use details from what you did during UK-wide lockdowns, local lockdowns, campus lockdowns or circuit breakers 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.

If you want to use time spent in lockdown to add to your story, you need to show that you developed skills or knowledge or gained insights into your coping mechanisms. 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 a 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. Take a look at our articles on online courses and learning a language during lockdown and beyond if you'd like get these kinds of experiences for your CV.
  • 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 (eg you got into running) or how your regular class moved on to Zoom.

Activities such as watching Netflix, gaming, reading and cooking 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 Discworld 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 the UK-wide 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 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 a 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’.

What about the pandemic in 2022 and beyond?

It’s hard to predict how Covid-19 will affect our lives over the next year or so. However, as time passes and things reach a certain normalcy, recruiters will expect you to find ways to develop your skills, your knowledge and your interest in a sector. However, evidence of these things does not need to come from an internship. It can come from things you can do from home, such as online courses, watching webinars, getting a mentor through your university careers service, fundraising and undertaking projects relevant to the industry (for example, blogging and video editing if you are interested in the media). Our advice is to review the job descriptions of vacancies that interest you (start by searching on targetjobs ), identify the skills that you lack and then find ways to acquire them in a way that best suits your circumstances. Take a look at our feature on what you need to know about getting work experience in a pandemic for more advice.

Last updated: December 2021.

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This describes editorially independent and impartial content, which has been written and edited by the targetjobs content team. Any external contributors featuring in the article are in line with our non-advertorial policy, by which we mean that we do not promote one organisation over another.

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