Professional Certifications You Can Earn to Fill Your 2020 Resume Gap

Nov 25, 2020 | Job Search Strategy

A title graphic featuring an alternate version of the article's title: "Certifications: The Perfect Way to Fill a 2020 COVID Resume Gap."

Facing a gap on your resume for 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic? First, don’t panic — recruiters understand. Second, one of these certifications could be a great way to fill it while job hunting.

By: Jennifer Meehan | Contributor for Let’s Eat, Grandma

The new realities of economic turmoil and job insecurity due to the coronavirus crisis have made it even more important for you to showcase a stellar set of skills in your job search. Especially for entry-level positions, competition will be fiercer than usual in the coming months.

Someday things will be back to normal. In the meantime, this iffy job market might cause some gaps in your resume. Rather than bemoan your bad luck (although a certain amount of moaning is understandable) at getting laid off or having your hours cut, you should try to get something productive on there while you’re job hunting. I know, that’s what your mother says every time you call her. But being productive can be as simple and inexpensive as taking a class toward certification in a skill.

Explaining gaps in your work history can seem awkward and daunting. (“Uh, I, uh, took a break for a year to help my dad clean out his basement?”) Thankfully, recruiters are more understanding these days because of the pandemic. They are people, too. But if you can show that you worked toward improving your skills during the time you were unemployed, the explanation will get a whole lot simpler.

What Kind of Certification Should I Get?

Of course there are lots of online classes out there, but make sure you look for those that will complement your resume. Narrow it down to a Creative Cloud class from Adobe if, for example, you’re looking for digital marketing jobs. Course work leading to a certification in your particular area will stand out to both a recruiter and an automated Applicant Tracking System (that dreaded ATS).

Certifications add tangible proof that you indeed have the skills you’ve listed in your resume and cover letter. And getting certified doesn’t require months of work either, unless you’re a pilot or an EMT. You can find low-cost or even free classes and tutorials that offer certification online. You won’t even need to change out of your sweatpants.

A stock photo of a smiling woman holding a baby in front of her laptop, illustrating the possibility of earning a certification to fill a 2020 Covid resume gap.

It’s now more possible than ever to earn a professional certification from home!

First, though, you need to do your research to ensure you’re signing up for a reputable professional certification program that’s worth listing on your resume.

Above all, make sure the program you sign up for is relevant to the type of jobs you’re seeking. A sales certification, for example, is terrific if you’re looking for work at a large company with lots of internal competition. It makes less sense for, say, a niche publisher.

Determine as well whether you need an advanced or introductory certification. Do you want a certification to prove expertise in a field you’re already established in, or are looking to learn in-demand skills to get started with something new?

If it’s the former, employers in certain fields like Human Resources look for some certifications that are more useful than others. If it’s the latter, here are some suggestions to get you on your way.

That said, there are a few courses/certifications that can apply to a number of jobs.

A Few Recommended Options

Project Management

A PMP® (Project Management Professional) certificate is of course essential if you will be handling complex projects with a large team. However, those three little letters after your name will tell recruiters that you have important skills even if your ideal job doesn’t specify project management in the title: organization, leadership, and the ability to complete a project successfully.

The program fee from the Project Management Institute is substantial—between $400 and $500—but it’s a good investment if you already have some experience in project management or a combination of experience and a four-year or associate degree. You could get a good return on that investment, too, since the certification can lead to higher salaries!

Data Analysis

More and more companies depend on data analysis for quality control, be it tracking clicks on a website, figuring out flaws in manufacturing, or quantifying the success of a marketing campaign. Analytics is the science of studying and organizing raw data to make conclusions from it.

If that sounds like it would fit your career, there are certification programs available from Microsoft, MIT and Columbia in data analytics through edX. However, be sure you’re ready for the time commitment they require.

A stock photo of a laptop open to a program used for data analysis, an in-demand job skill.

Data Analysis and advanced Excel are both high-value skills in many industries.


You can acquire the basics and bump up your resume with classes in Excel. You probably think you already know Excel. (You might even already have it on your resume!) If all you want to do is create a simple spreadsheet for a yearly budget, for instance, you probably do. But there is much, much more that this program can do. A skilled Excel user is valuable to companies in just about any field.

Even if you don’t need the heavy-duty analytical skills, taking an Excel class is a good idea.  Introductory courses are available through LinkedIn and Microsoft. Edx also offers a free course called Introduction to Data Analysis Using Excel. You can also get a verified certificate for $99. The course is meant for beginners and takes around 4 weeks. You’ll learn to master Excel skills like creating aggregate reports, presenting data in different ways, and making pivot tables.

Perhaps you’ve been copyediting scholarly books for a few years and have never really needed to create a spreadsheet. If you’re trying to convince an employer that an editor can become a marketing specialist, mastery of Excel could get you an interview.


So could classes and certification in Adobe Creative Cloud. Say you’re applying for a development job at a nonprofit. You will probably be organizing fundraising seminars, lunches, and chats with experts in the field. A well-designed invitation or announcement makes a big difference when your targeted invitees are deciding whether to accept.

You may have used Photoshop and InDesign for school projects, but you may know less than you think you do. The classes Adobe offers can introduce you to certain techniques and tools that can give a professional edge to publications. Proof that you’ve taken the courses and/or become an Adobe Certified Expert will show your expertise in using these incredibly useful tools. Even if you’re seeking work in a non-marketing field, having creative skills is always a plus.

Web Development

While we’re on the topic of creative skills, one job in demand these days is Web Developer. Thanks to the pandemic, we are all more dependent on the internet than ever. Companies in every industry need a good website that will stand above the crowd. Microsoft and edX offer a course in JavaScript, HTML, and CSS Web Development that is suited for beginners. You’ll learn the basics of building a website from the ground up.

Want to get deeper into web development, software engineering, data science, or other uses of programming? You may want to consider courses from a coding bootcamp like General Assembly. Zeit also has a wealth of recommended resources for pivoting into various new job tracks.

We sincerely hope that the pandemic hasn’t hit you or your friends and family too hard. If you’ve lost your job, we sympathize. Taking courses or registering for certification programs to build up your skills can not only help you get noticed, but it should help with the tedium of the job search.

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