June 10, 2010

Sabbatical: Career Builder or Career Damper?

Sabbatical: Career Builder or Career Damper?

There are many good reasons to take a sabbatical. These may be maternity (paternity leave), caring for a sick or elderly relative, personal enrichment or a business endeavor. Pursuing a degree or specialized training is not really a sabbatical. Whatever the reason for your sabbatical, a lot of your success in re-marketing yourself to prospective employers will depend on how you present the sabbatical.

“Are career breaks or sabbatical years really accepted? Does the industry welcome you back, acknowledging your strengths and prior experiences? Or is there a price to pay?” – Asha Naidu, Senior Software Consultant

If you are considering a sabbatical but want to come back to your present employer, this is definitely the easiest re-entry. Check your company policy to see if sabbaticals are available. If your company does not have a policy in place, they may still be receptive to the idea. Some companies may look at granting such a request as a way to hang onto valuable talent, rather than have to recruit your replacement. Others may be eager to take advantage of awarding a sabbatical instead of a raise.

If you are going to be out on the market looking for a new job at the end of your sabbatical, then deciding to go forward on such a break is more complicated. In any technology field, things can move fast. If you have been gone for some period, your competition may be better positioned than you upon your return. This competitive advantage may be harder to overcome in the current climate of a lingering recession with many un-employed and under-employed candidates.

Again, there are many good reasons to take a sabbatical. If you chose to do so, keep a few things in mind. Does the purpose of your sabbatical strengthen your professional knowledge, skill set or experience? If you are just burnt out and plan on catching a lot of re-runs and surfing the internet, you may want to explore some other options for rejuvenation. On the other hand, if you considering volunteering in the Peace Corps, or starting up a company, or some other venture that will allow you to contribute, grow, develop, this may be an opportunity to differentiate yourself in the eyes of a future employer.

While you are on sabbatical, make sure that you keep any professional certifications or memberships current. Build and update your skill set where ever possible. Keep in touch with your colleagues and network while you are away so that you know what is going on in your industry and your industry knows what you are doing. You may want to consider blogging about your endeavors.

“In my case, I had a one and a half year break in my high-tech career, during which period I was running my own business. That break, however, didn’t pose a big problem for me to get a decent job. In fact, I got a great job, with a 33% salary increase over my previous position.” – Henry Shen, Engineering QA Manager

Once you have concluded your sabbatical, make it a part of your value proposition. Gaps in employment need explanation, so you definitely need to include the sabbatical on your resume. This is an opportunity to bring to light the skills and talents you’ve built on and how they add value to your future employer. Use the experience to market yourself as a more skilled and knowledgeable person. While some people have experienced challenges in re-entering the workforce where they left off, others have parlayed their sabbatical experience into career advancement.


- A Resource from Redfish Technology, Executive Recruiters in High Tech and Green Energy.




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