Taking a sabbatical from work can provide you with an opportunity to take a break, recharge, and pursue personal or professional growth

While some people choose to take a sabbatical from work because they're dissatisfied with their current job, it's not the only, or even the primary, reason for taking a sabbatical. In most cases, people take sabbaticals for positive reasons, such as pursuing personal growth, exploring new experiences, or seeking work-life balance.

Sabbaticals are often viewed as a proactive step towards self-care and professional development rather than solely as an escape from a disliked job. Taking a sabbatical, whether it's a personal sabbatical or a work sabbatical, can be a meaningful and transformative experience. However, when it's time to return to the workforce and update your resume, you may wonder how to explain a sabbatical to potential employers. 

In this article, we'll explore what taking a sabbatical means and whether you should quit your job to take a sabbatical. We'll also provide tips on how to effectively communicate your sabbatical on your resume, to help you navigate this process with confidence.

What does sabbatical mean?

Imagine you have a favorite restaurant. You go to this restaurant every day and even have the same server take care of bringing your food out. After a while, the food gets old, the server doesn't laugh at your jokes anymore, and the whole event is just boring. You decide you need a break, so you try a new restaurant. The new place has the best bolognese you've ever tasted! You realize that there's more to life than that one restaurant you always visited. 

Taking a break from your favorite restaurant is like taking a sabbatical from work. It's a time to try new things, expand your knowledge about what else is out there in the world, and do something different to take care of yourself. 

A personal sabbatical is typically taken for self-care, rejuvenation, personal growth, or to pursue a passion project. It can involve traveling, learning a new skill, volunteering, or spending time with family and loved ones. On the other hand, a work sabbatical is usually granted by an employer and may involve taking time off to engage in professional development, pursue a specific project, or take a break from the demands of work.

Either way, a sabbatical is a planned and extended period of time in which you're away from work, that goes beyond your typical paid time off (PTO). It's designed to give you a unique opportunity to recharge your batteries. 

Sabbatical versus vacation

Don't be confused by the common benefit of vacation time. Vacation time and sabbaticals are two entirely separate things. A sabbatical typically refers to an extended period of time off from work, typically longer than a traditional vacation.

In contrast, vacation time is typically a short period of time off, often provided on an annual basis, and is usually used for rest, relaxation, and leisure activities. Vacation time is generally pre-approved and scheduled based on the employer's policies, while a sabbatical is usually a more structured and planned leave of absence with specific goals or purposes in mind.

Updating your resume with sabbatical details

After you've taken a sabbatical year, it's important to effectively communicate it on your resume. This will help potential employers to understand the gap in your employment history and appreciate the value of your sabbatical experience. 

Here are some tips on how to update your resume with sabbatical details:

Be transparent

One immutable truth about taking sabbatical leave is that it has the potential of creating an employment gap on your resume. While there is nothing inherently wrong with a gap from work on your resume, you do want to be honest about it. Transparency is one of those soft skills that employers desire. So, use it to explain your sabbatical. 

List the sabbatical itself in the Professional Experience section of your resume. Clearly state the period of time you took off, and avoid any ambiguity. For example, you can mention it as 

  • Personal Sabbatical: July 2022 - December 2022

  • Work Sabbatical: January 2021 - March 2021

Highlight the purpose and benefits

Use your resume to highlight the purpose and benefits of your sabbatical. Explain how it was a planned break to pursue personal growth, professional development, or a passion project. Share the skills you gained or enhanced during your sabbatical, such as leadership, communication, problem-solving, or cultural awareness. This will showcase your proactive approach to self-improvement and your ability to use your time effectively.

Emphasize relevant experiences

If your sabbatical involved any experiences that are relevant to your field or industry, make sure to highlight them on your resume. For example, if you traveled and gained insights into different cultures, mention it as a cultural immersion experience. If you volunteered for a cause related to your profession, highlight the skills and contributions that you made during that time.

Showcase accomplishments

If you completed any significant projects or achieved notable accomplishments during your sabbatical, mention them on your resume. For example, if you wrote a book, completed a certification course, or launched a website, highlight these achievements as they demonstrate your initiative, dedication, and motivation even during your time off.

Fill the gap strategically

Consider filling the gap strategically on your resume. You can mention any relevant activities you pursued during that time, such as freelance work, consulting, volunteering, or independent projects. This will demonstrate that you were productive and proactive during your sabbatical period.

Keep it concise

While it's important to include relevant details about your sabbatical, be mindful of keeping your resume concise. Your sabbatical should not overshadow your other qualifications and experiences. Aim to strike a balance between providing enough information about your sabbatical and keeping your resume focused on your overall qualifications for the job you're applying for.

Be prepared to explain

Finally, be prepared to explain your sabbatical in an interview if the employer asks about it. Be confident in discussing the purpose and benefits of your sabbatical and how it has contributed to your personal and professional growth. Emphasize the skills and experiences you gainedl that are relevant to the job you're applying for.

Should you quit your job to take a sabbatical?

You may be wondering if it's better to take a sabbatical while still employed or whether you should quit your job to take a sabbatical. Taking a sabbatical while still employed will certainly alleviate any concerns you may have about employment gaps on your resume. At the end of the day, though, it's all about personal preferences.

Prospective employers often don't even flinch at a resume that has a gap caused by a sabbatical. They will be curious about what you did, learned, and accomplished, but they're not going to be at all worried about the fact that you were “out of a job” for a year. If you're financially able, or if your current employer has a sabbatical policy that takes finance out of the equation, then go on your sabbatical. 

Unique benefits

Employers understand that hiring someone who has taken a sabbatical can bring unique benefits to their team. Above all, having taken a sabbatical shows them that you know how to properly plan and prioritize. Prospective employers love the idea of having someone on their team who possesses experiences and perspectives that are outside the realm of normal occurrences. 

Moreover, having taken a sabbatical demonstrates your resiliency and ability to adapt to change. Adaptability and flexibility are highly sought-after traits in today's workforce. 

Challenging but doable

Here are two real-life stories that illustrate how sabbaticals can provide valuable opportunities for personal and professional growth, leading to enhanced career trajectories and overall well-being. It doesn't matter if you're at the height of your career or somewhere in the middle; the unique experiences, new perspectives, and increased skills you gain can be invaluable. 

  • Bill Gates: In 2020, Bill Gates announced that he would be taking a sabbatical from his board positions at Microsoft and Berkshire Hathaway to focus on his philanthropic work. As a well-known technology entrepreneur and philanthropist, he decided to take a step back from his day-to-day business activities to dedicate more time to his charitable foundation and global health initiatives. This sabbatical allowed him to shift his focus and make a difference in a different capacity, showcasing the versatility and flexibility of sabbaticals in pursuing personal passions and contributing to society.

  • Elizabeth Gilbert: The renowned author of the bestselling book "Eat, Pray, Love" took a sabbatical from her writing career to explore other creative pursuits. She embarked on a year-long journey of self-discovery, travel, and learning, which she chronicled in her book "Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear." Gilbert's sabbatical allowed her to take a break from her writing routine, recharge her creativity, and gain new perspectives - ultimately enriching her writing and inspiring others to pursue their creative endeavors.

In closing

Whether you're taking a break because of burnout or you simply want to explore the world a bit and expand your horizons, a sabbatical may be the way to go - just be prepared to explain it on your resume. 

Whether you're looking for a new direction following a sabbatical or taking the next step along your career path, TopResume can help. Why not submit your resume for a free resume review, to ensure that you're showcasing your talents in the best possible way?

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