Career Breaks and Sabbaticals

A career break or sabbatical might seem like an appealing prospect at times in your life. This article will discuss what they are and how you and your employer/employee might benefit from them.

Career Break or Sabbatical – What’s the Difference?

These terms can be used interchangeably, to generally mean time out from your usual job. However, technically there is a difference:

A sabbatical is provided to an employee by their employer, and they will hold the job for them until they return. The period the sabbatical lasts for will depend on the employer, and the chance to have a sabbatical may not be available to everyone in the company.

A career break tends to involve formally resigning from a job, and there will be no guarantees of any role if or when the employee returns.


What is the benefit of a sabbatical to the employee?

An employee might feel the need to take a break from work, after many years of working. They may want to try to move their life in a different direction, but retain the safety of a guaranteed return to their role.

What is the benefit to the employer?

If a highly rated employee feels the need for a break from work, it is in the interests of the employer to try to keep a link to them while they are away and to offer the opportunity to return once the sabbatical is completed. It may be that if a sabbatical were not offered, the employee would leave anyway, and recruiting a replacement would be far more difficult and costly to the business than offering a sabbatical. In addition, the employee is likely to come back to work refreshed and re-energised. They may have learned new skills or acquired new and useful perspective.

How to request a sabbatical

Firstly you need to find out whether your employer offers the opportunity of a sabbatical. If they do then find out more about it:

  • What information do they need?
  • Is there a recommended amount of time?
  • What happens to your benefits while you are gone (particularly those relying on length of service)?

Then prepare for the meeting with your employer. This may be with HR or your manager or both. Whoever it is, you need to show them why it will benefit them, to let you have a sabbatical. You will need to understand any business or industry issues that may affect the timing of your sabbatical – is there one time of year that makes more sense than another, for example?

Think about what the issues will be to them and try to have answers for them. Who will take on your workload while you are away? What impact will your sabbatical have on the business?

The more preparation you put into showing your employers why a sabbatical will be beneficial to both them and you, the more likely it is you will be granted one!

Career Break

The positive of a career break over a sabbatical is that it is up to you how long you take out of work and what you do when you are ready to go back. Obviously, the disadvantage is that there is no guaranteed job to go back to.

Employees thinking about taking a career break may be concerned that future employees might look at their CVs with concern. The best advice here is, to be honest about why you took a break and put a positive spin on it. Future employers want to know that you will be happy and settled with them, so emphasise the benefits you got from your career break and how you can use them in a new role.

When you are ready to return to work, you will need to update your CV, get back up to date with any industry changes, but most of all, use your break to sell yourself as a great future employee.

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