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The Best Way to Explain Your Sabbatical To a New Employer

taking sabbatical

Knowing how to write an effective resume that includes sabbatical time is an art. The main goal of your resume is to showcase your most relevant skills, experience and knowledge that makes you the right fit for the job.

However, when you have taken a sabbatical and want to return to the workforce, some job candidates will wonder how they can go about justifying their ‘time-out’ positively.

Your sabbatical should be looked at as a positive move and treated no differently than when listing your skills and experiences gained on your resume.

What you have learned on your sabbatical can be very important and will enhance your skill-set in a way that can add great value to your resume.

What is a sabbatical for?

Taking a sabbatical can provide you with a great number of opportunities for personal and professional growth. There are lots of places to head to across the world that can offer you ways to develop yourself.

This could be by involving yourself in entrepreneurship where you can learn new, valuable work-related skills, to more spiritual retreats that can open your mind to enable you to accomplish positive achievements and look at the world differently.

How can this experience help your career?

Getting real-world experience outside of your normal, every-day routine can be incredibly valuable.  From a work-related point of view, your experiences will have enabled you to grow, think outside of the box and look at issues and circumstances from a different perspective.

Your unique sabbatical experience can allow you to devise, craft and weave a positive story about your company or brand. You can emphasize a different viewpoint that others miss or cannot see.

During an interview for a new job, you will undoubtedly be asked about your sabbatical, so you need to make sure you highlight exactly how your sabbatical was useful for your ongoing development in your chosen professional field or industry.

Returning to work after your sabbatical year

Getting back to work following your sabbatical isn’t as difficult as you might think. These days a lot of employers find it is perfectly acceptable to take a year out to travel or take advantage of new experiences.

The best way to frame your sabbatical year is as a project where you aimed to achieve something valuable. The skills learned or improved by your experiences can be a great selling point to a prospective new employer.

While at home, it can be useful to reconnect with your old network, or join LinkedIn groups to create new networks and build useful working relationships with people in your business sector.

You will find that opportunities may arise where you can offer your skills and experiences to prove advice and support to others in your line of work. They may hear of new job openings at their workplace well in advance of the company going to press with an advert.

Make sure you update your resume to reflect your sabbatical experiences positively and your employer will see that your gained knowledge will be a very valuable asset to their company.

Emphasize your newly developed skills

Take some time following your return from your sabbatical to write down how the experience helped further develop and enhance your existing skills or enabled you to learn new skills that you didn’t have before.

For example, did your sabbatical give you a chance to develop leadership skills where you didn’t have any similar responsibilities before?

Did you discover that you are actually good at conflict resolution, or boosting a teamwork approach to solving issues?

Were you able to complete a task on your own that has given you a better sense of self-reliance?

Has your time travelling improved your language proficiency and cultural understanding?

Whatever new skills you have learned or existing skills that you have developed further, it can be helpful to summarize these skills to include on your winning cover letter when applying for a new job, or to keep in mind to use as examples during your next job interview.

Focus on the advantages of your sabbatical

No matter whether you are preparing to talk about your sabbatical during an up and coming job interview, or you are including your experience on your resume, you need to focus on how taking the sabbatical has obvious advantages for your prospective employers.

Concerning your resume, you may want to note it down on your timeline, but elaborate more about it in your cover letter where you will have the available space to include more detail.

Try not to ramble on for too long, but keep the advantages of your sabbatical focused to a short list of accomplishments, such as:

  • I conducted critical research that was essential for a project
  • I completed a training course in XYZ
  • I worked for a year with a non-profit organization
  • I took a year out to travel through Europe

Curb your enthusiasm

Elaborate but don’t go overboard. The employer reading your cover letter will not be interested in reading a day-by-day account of your experiences, no matter how motivating you found your sabbatical on a personal level.

Tweaking your resume

Another way to explain your sabbatical other than to use your cover letter would be to add a note about it in your ‘additional information’ section, or add a section to your resume to cover ‘extra skills’.

This is where our resume templates for Word can be handy. They are made in such a way that it is easy for you to edit with your information and save multiple variations to suit the requirements of each job application you make.

During the interview

Once you get through to the interview stage, your interviewer may ask you about your time-off in more detail. Make sure to frame your response to include your professional motivations for taking your sabbatical. Explain how you were interested in exploring a possible new career path, or how you wanted to gain more knowledge or inspiration from working on a different project.

Why and where should you include your sabbatical information?

When returning from your sabbatical and wanting to re-enter the job market, you will need to include the details of your sabbatical on your resume to explain the gap in your employment history.

But just because it is your most recent chronological experience doesn’t mean it should go right at the top of your resume!

If you know that you gained new and valuable skills during your sabbatical that strike a chord with the desired skills for the job on offer, then it is worth highlighting them in your job application within your resume AND on your cover letter.

Most employers will quickly skim over a cover letter and a resume actively looking for any mention of those relevant keywords that are important to them. By incorporating their desired keywords in your application your resume will have a better chance to land on the ‘yes’ pile for an interview.

Conclusion

You should never feel guilty about taking a sabbatical and if you encounter an employer that has issues with you taking a career break for whatever reason, then maybe that company isn’t right for you.

Most open-minded employers these days understand that people’s career paths are not linear. There are all sorts of bends and curves that you can take along your path that can give you a broader and more valuable set of skills to be able to cope with everything that life and work can throw at you.

Use the knowledge and skills gained from your sabbatical to win over potential new employers and make them see the extra value you can deliver to their company.

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