As an executive resume writing consultant, I often work with clients understandably worried about how to overcome a gap in their career history. Whether you left the job market by choice or otherwise – my experience working with out-of-work clients has shown me they are usually anything but idle.

The trick to minimizing a career gap is to position your activities completed during the gap-time into language aligned with your career aspirations.

Volunteer Efforts

Fundraising, coaching, leading, organizing. These are how many of us spend our volunteer hours.

If you raised $3,000 for your child’s school, you can highlight how you created and executed a plan to make it happen, calculate if you raised more than the year prior and note it.

Did you make a highly manual or labor-intensive process easier by transitioning it online or adding a level of organization that never previously existed? In resume-speak, you’ve created automation and/or efficiencies. Quantify the time saved and you’ve got a tangible, measurable achievement!

Did you spend time coaching a team or leading a scout troop? Then you developed a curriculum that takes into account learning principals aligned with company or organizational standards.

Academic Efforts

Many of my clients have chosen to make a Career 180 and left their jobs to pursue and advanced academic degree. In these cases, I advise clients to list their new education status at the top of the resume below their career title and summary or branding paragraph.

Be sure to include curriculum details including course titles – as these often align with job posting keywords. If your curriculum included internships, special assignments, group projects, or case reviews, be sure to include to show that you have gained position- and industry-relevant insight.

Networking Efforts

When you have focused almost exclusively on searching for a job, it is helpful to show you have not been sitting idle.

Consider joining LinkedIn groups, sharing articles, initiating conversations or maybe even authoring your own posts using LinkedIn’s publishing platform. Doing so can help to cement your status as an industry thought leader – and you can include in your resume details around readership and reader engagement.

Expert Acts of Kindness

Think back on the times you have lent your expertise to a friend as an act of kindness.

Convert these acts of friendship into professional speak and they can read like a job experience. If you helped a small business organize their financial accounts, note you streamlined bookkeeping or reconciled accounts.

Using myself as an example, when my children were still in diapers, I took some time off from paid work During that period, I often helped friends on projects that required my writing expertise. This included work on resumes, websites, press releases and even brochures. Although it was all unpaid, by showing this type of work on my resume showed employers that I had kept my skills fresh. More importantly, it helped to close my (paid) career gap!

Remember that all experience counts – paid or unpaid. Position it properly, and you will likely discover your large career gap doesn’t seem nearly as daunting.