Back to work: reviving your career after a sabbatical | Guardian Careers
Who doesn’t dream of taking off for months on end and spending their days island hopping across Greece or hiking in the Amazon rainforest? While not all career breaks might be so adventurous, taking time off from work can be a great way to recharge or reflect on a new career direction.
And don’t worry about employers frowning on a career break. “It’s absolutely acceptable to take time out and travel,” says HR and resourcing specialist Lydia Fairman. “It’s a fantastic opportunity and most employers will recognise that.”
Career breaks and sabbaticals can involve more than travel, too. “See if you can get involved in any volunteer opportunities, or make any trips that you feel you could put on your CV, even something like a bit of time teaching, such as Tefl,” adds Fairman.
Before your break, think about what you’d like to achieve. “Allow yourself to be honest about what you’d love to spend this time doing and let that be the driver of your plans,” advises Natasha Stanley, head coach and head of content at Careershifters.
She also suggests planning your trip with someone. “Taking a break can feel scary enough without trying to tackle the whole project on your own. Find some supportive friends or family to help you build confidence about your plans and find creative solutions to your concerns.”
Jon Gregory, a job search, application and interview specialist, recommends thinking of your break as a project. “Be clear about what you’re aiming to achieve and proactively manage yourself throughout to make sure you achieve it.”
“Don’t wait until the day you return to start job hunting,” says Andrew Fennell, director of StandOut CV. “Landing a role can take time, so get some feelers out a few weeks before [you return].”
For those keen on taking a sabbatical, Fairman advises checking out how your company views them first. Sabbaticals can often outweigh leaving the company to travel. “It could be good to take a sabbatical, return to that job and then consider your options from there,” she says. “You keep your continuity of service that way.”
So you’ve explored China for three months or volunteered on home turf for half the year. How should you position your career break on paper? “Make sure you cover the gap on your CV so it’s addressed clearly,” says Sarah Archer, a qualified career coach and founder of CareerTree. “Just state that you were travelling, you don’t need to justify it any more.”
She also suggests writing a CV that showcases your skills and experience. “A hybrid CV will distract the reader from the gap and let them focus on the skills and experience you can bring.”
Upon return, Archer recommends networking and joining LinkedIn groups. “Ask questions and begin to build relationships (the groups are great for this), and also provide advice in your own skills area. You will find opportunities arise, don’t focus on the gap, but on what you will bring to the company or role.”
It’s also worth staying in touch with colleagues and contacts while you’re away – that way when you’re return, it’s easier to turn to them for advice.
Whatever you do, don’t worry about taking time out of your career. Whether you’re looking after an ill parent or you need to recharge your batteries for a few months, employers understand that career paths today aren’t just one direct line. There are bends and curves, but as long as you explain these on your CV and highlight the skills you acquired, you’ll most certainly win over potential employers.