How Do I Handle a Sabbatical?

How Do I Handle a Sabbatical?

I was recently asked this question:

“I would like to take some time off to spend with my young children. How should I handle this gap on my résumé to minimize my difficulty in reentering the workforce?”

With the inquirer’s permission, I am sharing the gist of my response with you all.

Taking time off is something that many professionals have done (yours truly included). Depending on the company/industry, there may be other options available to you than just quitting your job, however. Check into this first before giving your notice.

If you really like where you work, talk with your boss to see if taking a sabbatical is a possibility. If they value you as an employee as much as you value them as an employer, there’s a good chance that they will be willing to work something out with you.

Perhaps they can hire a temporary worker to fill your spot while you are on leave. Even if you are a white-collar professional, this is more possible than you think. For example, if you are a professor at a university, your employer could look into having a visiting professor fill in during your absence.

There are also recruiters that hire for temporary white-collar opportunities. Robert Half International is a prime example of this, providing temporary and project work for careerists in finance, accounting, technology, legal, office administration, and marketing and design fields.

If a complete sabbatical is not an option, would they be willing to reduce your workload to part time? Maybe there is a colleague at your workplace who is interested in doing something similar and would like to jobshare with you. Would they be open to you working from home during this part-time employment? Is this something you are willing to consider?

If you and your employer can’t come to an agreement about alternative work arrangements, then you will have to submit your resignation to take the time off you desire.

Staying current in your field during your time off will be a critical component to making reentry into the workforce an easy transition. Various ways you can do this include:

  • Taking classes and seminars germane to your industry.
  • Networking online and offline.
  • Guest posting and commenting on industry blogs.
  • Volunteering for a community-based organization in a way that uses your skills (e.g. if you work in HR, head a committee that creates or updates the employee handbook for a nonprofit).

Being able to demonstrate that you did more than simply go to the park for playdates during your time off will go a long way to allaying any fears that your skills and knowledge base are rusty.

How else have you stayed relevant in your field during an extended time off?

Image courtesy of Stephan Hochhaus

Melissa Cooley, career coach and certified résumé writer of The Job Quest, LLC unearths her clients’ career examples to showcase the talents and results that make them must-hire candidates. Click here for more information on ways to partner with Melissa for your career success!

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