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Last Updated on July 4, 2019

Clueless On Your Career? Sabbatical vs. Career Break

Clueless On Your Career? Sabbatical vs. Career Break

In our dynamic, career-driven society, time often moves so fast that we find ourselves constantly trying to keep up with it. At first, there’s just one deadline, maybe two. Soon, commitments with friends and family start to merge. You run. Nights turn to days as you stay up late, trying to squeeze in more minutes into what’s already gone.

Still you keep going. Until you quickly realize that although your feet are moving, you are not. It’s as if everything and everyone else exists in a place where you cannot follow. And you’re stuck watching them like a reel of film. Just when time feels like it moved again, you fall. Hard, cold, exhausted.

Do you usually wish that you could get up and leave everything behind? Well, not literally, of course. But a break would definitely be nice. Ever heard of the term sabbatical? How about a career break? A lot of people are familiar with these words and even use them interchangeably – but they’re different from each other. Here’s how they can help you catch the break you deserve (and maybe even help you on the road to a better career).

Sabbatical vs. Career Break: Which One Is Better?

“We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you.” – Eric Roth

According to an article by career break coach, Sue Hadden, a sabbatical is a more formal scheme offered by companies to qualified workers.[1] Examples are Nike and Adobe, big corporations that give employees the option of a sabbatical after they have served a certain number of years. It’s like a benefit, similar to getting pension contributions.

This is a good option for those who want to work in the same company or position after a long break.

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Sabbaticals are typically used for:

  • Relaxation from work burn-out
  • Learning/honing new skills
  • Traveling the world
  • Volunteering; or
  • General reflecting

If you’ve been feeling stressed out lately and you’re fairly certain that you just need a long break, ask your HR department about sabbaticals. Depending on your company’s policies, it might be partially unpaid or not at all. Check if you qualify for this perk and you might just fulfill that dream getaway sooner than you think.

Plus, you’ll have the peace of mind that you’ll have a job to come back to.

A career break on the other hand, is typically what you resort to if your company does NOT have a sabbatical policy. This will involve handing over your resignation. The upside is that you’re not tied to the organization anymore, which means you can take your time and hop on the career train whenever you’re ready!

Career breaks are perfect if you want to:

  • Switch to a new career
  • Start a business
  • Go into freelancing
  • Travel the world more extensively
  • Get experience for a job you’re not qualified for yet

For some folks, going on sabbatical was the best decisions they ever made. For others, a career break was the more practical approach. Deciding which one suits your needs best would depend on YOU.

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Think about why you need a break in the first place. Decide for how long you want to be away from work. Then, weigh the pros and cons of your choice.

6 Things To Keep In Mind During Your Break

“I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view.” – Eric Roth

Let’s assume that you’ve made up your mind on which break you want to take. You’re all set: finances are in order, friends and family members have your back, and you’re mentally geared to make this the best experience of your life (so far). Here are six things you need to consider before heading out the door:

1. Always keep your resume updated.

During your sabbatical or career break, new opportunities might come knocking. You want to be prepared for anything. So make sure you take a few minutes to update your resume. List new skills you have gained along the way. Write what you learned on a new section called “Life Experiences”. Pick your words wisely. This time you have all the hours you need.

2. Keep yourself healthy.

If you took a sabbatical or career break due to work burnout, don’t just sit on the couch binge-watching on Netflix! That diet you’ve wanted to try is waiting for you. Stop procrastinating and join your buddy for a jog. Meditate. Relieve the stress you’ve accumulated up to this point.

3. Avoid burning bridges.

Even if you resigned for a career break, do NOT burn bridges. Who knows – you might need those people again in the future. Today, there are various ways to stay connected. There’s social media, messaging apps, and the traditional text or call.

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4. Create good web presence.

As you hop from one adventure to another, make sure you’re also minding what you post online. Whether it’s a sabbatical or career break, you don’t want employers getting the wrong idea. That time you went hiking in Thailand? Cool. How about that binge-drinking session with old college buddies? Not so cool.

Keeping your personal brand in check while out and about ensures that you’ll have nothing to clean up after all the adrenaline has ebbed.[2]

5. Reflect a lot.

If you were used to 80-hour workweeks, you might find it hard to relax and do nothing for the first days of your break. Don’t forget to relish these quiet moments with yourself. Pick up a good book and sit by the window. Take long walks alone. Revel in the fact that for once, you’re not racing to catch up with time.

Imagine your future. Think about what makes you happy. Immerse in the moment.

6. Use time wisely.

It can be tempting to do nothing for days. But before you know it, days have turned into weeks, weeks into months. What do you have to show for your sabbatical or career break? What adventures did you take? What did you learn?

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career-time

    It’s amazing to finally have all the time in the world: but once you have it, what do you do with it? Use it wisely. Even if you’re in a two-year sabbatical, you’d be surprised at how fast time flies.

    If you took a career break, you might be wondering how it would impact your career. While a lot of employers and hiring managers don’t care for gaps in employment history, you should still be prepared for people who won’t be as understanding.[3]

    This is why you should make each second count. Don’t waste your precious time just lounging around (you can always do catch-up marathons on the weekends). The important thing to remember after your sabbatical or career break is that the right job will understand why you wanted the time off.

    For now, don’t sweat about it too much. This is your gift to yourself, remember?

    Sabbatical or Career Break? You Choose

    “I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.” – Eric Roth

    Whether you’re taking a break to take care of your family or yourself, you shouldn’t see it as a luxury. We all need time for ourselves. It’s how we assess how far we’ve come, and where to go next. So avoid feeling guilty!

    Don’t wait until the last moments to truly LIVE.

    Featured photo credit: Adrianna Calvo/Pexels.com via pexels.com

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    Cris Antonio

    Content Strategist, Storyteller

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    Last Updated on June 2, 2020

    How to Write an Impressive Cover Letter (With Examples)

    How to Write an Impressive Cover Letter (With Examples)

    Think of your cover letter for a job application as an in-person introduction. Your resume outlines the facts—where you worked and for how long, along with your major accomplishments. But your cover letter also shows off your personality.

    Your cover letter should outline the case for why you deserve the job without being “salesy.” How do you do that? Follow these 12 important guidelines.

    1. There Is No Cookie-Cutter Cover Letter for a Job

    Targeting your resume to a particular job may mean changing up your “Objective” section a bit or adding to your “Executive Summary” section. Cover letters, though, really need to focus on the particular person you’re writing to, the particular job, and the particular company. It needs to prove, with an economy of words, that your job experience fits the requirements of the position for which you’re applying.

    Your letter should show that you have amassed the skills you need to succeed in that workplace. And, your cover letter should clinch your prospects by making the case that you are very excited about working at that particular company.

    2. Always Opt-in to the Optional Cover Letter

    Some job postings will give applicants the option of opting out of providing a cover letter for a job[1]. Don’t take the bait! Use the opportunity to further sell yourself in a personalized, well-crafted cover letter that creatively shares who you are and why your skills and personality align with the position and the company. Think of your cover letter for a job as an opportunity to describe your value proposition.

    3. A Reference Goes a Long Way

    Did someone recommend you for the job? Put that in the subject line of your cover letter if possible. If an online listing dictates what your subject line must be, cite the personal recommendation in the first sentence of your letter:

    Dear Ms. Sanders,

    Steve Smith recommended me for your Assistant Planner position. I worked with Steve at the XYZ company for four years as his assistant until he moved on, and I feel as though I learned from the best.  His high praise for you is the primary reason I am applying for this position, as I consider him an excellent judge of character. 

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    You may want to bolster Steve’s recommendation with a short anecdote about working with Steve. Don’t be shy. Steve’s high opinion of you will likely mean that your resume gets a serious look.

    4. Outline the Key Points You Want to Make

    Company by company, your cover letter for a job application needs to be specific and bulletproof. Unless you have a great deal of practice in writing cover letters, it’s hard to just bang them out. So don’t even try. Instead, start with a list of points you intend to make. Generally, these would be a “grabby” introduction, a story or two about a particular accomplishment that is relevant to the job to which you are applying, a reason why you are the ideal candidate for the position, and a conclusion with a suggested next step.

    1. Intro – Have been familiar with the company since my father worked there in the 1980s.
    2. College Major – Majored in industrial engineering so I could get a job at CYY Building, Inc.
    3. Captain of Soccer Team – Prepared me to solve problems, promote morale, and coach a team.
    4. Ask for Informational Interview – 15 minutes to meet in person and learn more about opportunities.
    5. Compelling Close – Ask Hiring Manager to call me. Say I will call her in a week if I don’t hear from her first.

    5. Moderating the Tone of Your Cover Letter

    Some companies are buttoned-up. The workers wear three-piece suits to the office each day plus loafers. Other companies are more casual. The employees wear shorts in the summertime and skateboard through the hallways. In an in-person interview, you would never wear shorts to a company whose employees are sporting three-piece suits.

    Similarly, your cover letter needs to strike the right note. The letter you write to a start-up should sound markedly different than the letter you would write to a white-shoe law firm.

    For example, even using something as informal as “Greetings” for the salutation may not be appropriate at a more formal firm. And definitely don’t use the default “To Whom It May Concern.” Instead, try to find the name of the hiring manager with an online search. If that’s not possible, you will want to begin with “Dear XYZ Hiring Manager.” The tone of your cover letter for a job starts at the very beginning.

    6. Create an Attention-Grabbing Opening Line

    Think of going to hear a presentation by a motivational speaker, only to have her open with, “I’m here today to present (fill in with title of the presentation).” What a let down! What if instead, she started with, “I just ran a half marathon. Now doesn’t that sound better than if I told you, ‘I tried to run a marathon but quit half-way through?’” See the difference? You want to hear more.

    Craft the first line of your cover letter with the utmost care. It doesn’t need to be clever, but it needs to show your personality and your fit for the position.

    Dear Mr. Stevens,

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    I am committed to making the customer service experience better for people like my grandmother. At 87 years old, my Gram is lost in the digital world and reliant on customer service representatives she can reach by telephone to answer her questions and solve her problems. She regularly shares stories of frustrating dead-ends she experiences with people wanting her to “go online and make your selection.”  Yet, whenever she reaches someone willing to take the extra time to resolve her issue, she sings the company’s praises to everyone she knows. Based on Gram’s frustrations, I want to be that person who won’t give up or pass the buck with bewildered customers.  

    With a strong, anecdotal opening such as this, you show purpose and passion behind your application to be a customer service representative.

    7. Recognize the Value of Cover Letter Real Estate

    Spare writing is key in the cover letter for a job. It is always best if your letter doesn’t exceed a page. Those reviewing applications appreciate a letter that is terse, yet provides useful information to evaluate an applicant. This means you have five to six paragraphs in which to work.

    Repeating anything from your resume is a waste of real estate. Think in terms of describing why you are applying for the position and why you are the best candidate.

    To best show your personality, avoid stale phrases such as, “I believe my experience would be a good fit in your organization.” Add punch to your statements that show off your accomplishments and your attitude.

    I thrive in start-up environments where I’ve learned to expect the unexpected and to make changes on the fly. In one such instance, I uncovered better results from a pilot project and in under 30 minutes had updated the CEO’s presentation in time for his meeting with a venture capitalist.

    8. Getting Creative

    On the surface, a requirement is a requirement. Many online ads specify the number of years, and you might think they are ironclad. But if you count the number of years you amassed a particular skill at the job and add any volunteer work where you also used that skill, you might surpass the requirement.

    Say that you are applying for a position in fund development. If your career experience in putting on charity fundraisers falls a little short, it’s certainly appropriate to add in time spent organizing fundraising events as a volunteer—as long as you indicate it as such in your cover letter for the job.

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    I recently passed my two and a half year mark of employment as a fund development associate with Notable Events. Concurrently, I oversaw all aspects of two annual fundraising galas as a volunteer board member of Reach for the Stars Foundation, offering scholarships to first-generation college-bound students. These involved finding sponsors for more than 70 silent auction items, renting event space, working with caterers, recruiting volunteers and MC-ing both events, which each drew more than 200 attendees and, together, raised more than $250,000. I believe this intensive hands-on experience helps supplement my years of employment.

    Showcasing your community ethos through volunteering could make up for the deficit in actual on-the-job experience.

    9. Making the Case that You Fit

    How will you fit in at the company? With some research, you can easily figure out the corporate culture of an organization. Many companies share their core values in job recruitment ads. But even if you can’t discern a company’s mission or beliefs from its advertising, you can learn it from articles you read about the company.

    Is it employer-centric or employee-centric? Is the culture more traditional or more fun? And what are you looking for? When you find a company where your needs align with theirs, that’s an indication that you would fit in well. Take care to make sure that your cover letter reflects how you fit.

    If you are a recent military veteran[2], consider which civilian positions lend themselves to the regimented culture of which you’ve become accustomed. For example, your occupational specialty while in the military could dovetail well with a company’s job requirements—and you have the added benefit of discipline, following instructions, and teamwork that you can apply to any future position.

    10. Always Ask for What You’re Worth

    If the employer asks applicants to share their salary requirements in the cover letter for a job, disregard what you made in your former position and look into the salary ranges[3] of the advertised position. You will want to adjust up or down within the salary range depending on your prior experience in the industry or in a similar role.

    The key is to not undercut yourself by asking below the minimum amount, or to overinflate your worth by asking for an amount higher than the maximum pay in the salary range.

    11. Show Your Cover Letter to Three People Whose Opinion You Trust

    Once your letter is out in the world, it’s too late to tweak it for that particular job. You will dramatically improve your chances of having your cover letter “land” correctly if you’re proactive. Find a few people in the field, and ask them if you can show them your cover letter before you send it out.

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    If you are starting out and don’t know anyone in the field, you may want to consider paying for a professional career consultant or coach to review your cover letter and resume. Remember that the care you demonstrate in your cover letter is that employer’s first impression of you.

    12. End With Enthusiasm

    You want to stay upbeat all the way to the end of the letter. Let the reviewer know that you appreciate the opportunity to apply and that you look forward to hearing from (or having a chance to meet with) them in person.

    It would be an honor to be part of your team, and I hope to have an opportunity to discuss this role and how I could contribute to it in person.

    This acknowledges that the organization gets to make the next move, but that you anticipate it will be in your favor.

    Sign off formally (“Sincerely” or “Best regards”) or informally (“Best” or “Thank you”) depending on the tone of the letter. Also, be sure to include your email address and phone number under your name. This ensures that, should the reviewer wish to contact you, the contact information is easily accessible.

    Final Thoughts

    The best cover letters for a job are lively, authentic, and provide a memorable result, anecdote or example of your approach to work. By tying your approach to the requirements of the job description and revealing your personality as a fit for the organization, you will give yourself a winning chance for making the cut and landing that coveted job interview.

    More Tips on Writing a Great Cover Letter

    Featured photo credit: Glenn Carstens-Peters via unsplash.com

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