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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

    Reference

    More by this author

    Cris Antonio

    Content Strategist, Storyteller

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    Last Updated on January 13, 2020

    Is It Time for a Career Change? (And How to Make the Change)

    Is It Time for a Career Change? (And How to Make the Change)

    Are you challenged at work? Do you regret career decisions? Are you happy? If the answer to the questions leads to a negative feeling, it is time to determine next steps.

    Many people settle for a career that no longer brings satisfaction. Most will respond by stating, “I am surviving” if a colleague asks them “How’s work?”

    Settling for a job to pay bills and maintain a lifestyle is stagnation. You can re-direct the journey of a career with confidence by taking control of future decisions. After all, you deserve to be live a happy life that will offer a work-life balance.

    Let’s look at the reasons why you need a career change and how to choose a career for a more fulfilling life.

    How to Know if You Need a Career Change?

    The challenges of dissatisfaction in a career can have a negative impact on our mental health. As a result, our mental health can lead to the obvious appearance of stress, aging, weight gain and internal health issues.

    You deserve a career that will fulfill the inner desire of true happiness. Here are common factors that it is time for you to change your career.

    Physical Signs

    Are you aging since you started your job? Do you have anxiety? What about work-related injuries?

    It feels amazing to receive a pay cheque, but you deserve to work in an environment that brings out the best of you. If the work environment is hazardous, speak to your boss about alternative options.

    In the case that colleagues or your boss take advantage of your kindness, feeling the anxiety of fear of losing your job because of a high-stress environment may not be right for you.

    Mental Signs

    One out of five Americans has mental health issues, according to Mental Health America.[1] In most cases, it is related to stress.

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    I remember working at a job in a work environment where harassment was acceptable. I had to walk on eggshells to avoid crossing the line with colleagues. My friends started to notice the difference in that I seemed out of character. It was then that I knew that changing a career to freelancing was the right decision.

    Here is a list of mental signs of workplace unhappiness:

    • The tension in your neck
    • Difficulties with sleeping
    • Unable to concentrate
    • High anxiety
    • Depression

    If you start to feel your self-esteem is diminishing, it is time to consider if working in a high-stress industry is for you. The truth is, this negative energy will be transferred to people in your life like friends and family.

    Are You Sure You’re Not Changing for the Wrong Reason?

    Most people that feel they need a career are frustrated with their situation at work. Do you really understand your current situation at work?

    The reason it is important to think about the work situation is some people decide to change career for factors that are insignificant. Factors that can potentially change if the person works in a different department or new organization.

    Here is a list of unimportant factors to think about before you decide to make the transition:

    Desire for an Increase of Salary

    The desire for a higher income can persuade some to believe they are in the wrong career. The issue with this is more money requires more time in the office or taking on several positions at a time.

    At times, pursuing a high-income role can be the complete opposite of what one is expected. It is what happens when a colleague leaves a company to a new one and returns several years later.

    Overnight Decision

    Let’s face it. We make overnight decisions when stressed out or disappointed with situations at work. The problem with a quick decision is the negative and positive points is overlooked.

    Rejected for a Promotion

    I have heard stories of managers that applied ten times for a position throughout a 5-year period. Yes, it sounds to be a lengthy process, but at times, a promotion requires time. Avoid changing a career if you do not see the results of a promotion currently.

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    Bored at Work

    Think deeply about this point. If you work a job that is repetitive, it is normal to feel bored. You can spice it up by changing the appearance of your desk, socializing with new employees in a different department, joining a leadership committee at work or coming to work with enthusiasm. Sometimes, all it takes is you to change jobs into a fun situation.

    A career change can take time, networking, education and the job search process can be a journey. Here is a list of things to consider before making a final decision:

    • How long have you worked in your career?
    • What is the problem at work? Do you work well with the team?
    • Do you receive recognition?
    • Can you consider working in a new department?

    If after reviewing your work situation and none of the above recommendations can help, then it’s time to make a career change.

    How a Career Change Will Change Your Life

    I have a friend that works in the medical industry. She was once a nurse working directly with patients in one of the top hospitals in her area. After five years, she started to internalize the issues with her patients to the point where she felt depressed after work hours. It impacted her relationship with her family and she almost lost herself.

    One day, she decided to wake up and take control of her destiny. She started applying for new medical jobs in the office. It meant working on medical documentation of patients which is not an ideal career based on what society expects a medical professional to perform. But she started to feel happier.

    It is a classic example of a person that was negatively impacted by issues at work, stayed in the same industry but changed careers.

    A career change can fulfill a lifelong dream, increase one’s self-esteem or revive the excitement for one’s work.

    You know a career change can be the right decision to make if you experience one or all of these:

    • Working in a negative workplace: Don’t be discouraged. A negative workplace can be changed by working at a new organization.
    • Working with a difficult boss: The challenges of working with a difficult boss can be stressful. All it takes is communication. You can address the issue directly with a manager professionally and respectfully.
    • Feeling lost about what you do: Most people stay at their jobs and settle for mediocrity because of the fear of failure or the unknown. The rise to success often comes with working a tedious role or stepping outside of one’s comfort zone. If you fear the idea of being involved in activities that are new, remember that life is short. Mediocrity will only continue to make you feel as if life is passing you by.

    How to Make a Career Change Successfully

    The ultimate key to success is to go through a career transition step by step to avoid making the wrong decision.

    1. Write a Career Plan

    A career plan has a dead line for action steps that includes taking new courses, learning a new language, networking or improving issues at work.[2] A career plan should be kept in your wallet because it will motivate you to keep pursuing the role.

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    You can learn how to set your career plan here.

    2. Weigh Your Options

    If you have a degree in Accounting, write down five positions in this industry of interest. The good news is diplomas and degrees can be used to a variety of roles to choose.

    You don’t have to stick to what society holds a top job. In the end, choosing the right role that will make you happy is priceless.

    3. Be Real About the Pros and Cons

    It is time to be honest about strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in the job market that are impacting the current situation.

    A SWOT Analysis of a career can include:[3]

    • Economic factors
    • Direct competition: Is this role in high demand?
    • Location: Do you need to move? If the goal is to work in tech and living in Cincinnati is not realistic, consider moving to San Francisco.
    • Achievements: To stand out from the competition achievements like awards, committee involvement, freelance work or volunteering is a recipe for success.
    • Education: Do you need to go back to school? Education can be expensive. However, online courses, webinars or self-study is an option.

      A career blueprint is the first step to creating realistic goals. A person without goals will be disappointed without a clear direction of what to do next.

      4. Find a Mentor or Career Coach

      A mentor or a career coach that works in the desired position can share the pros and cons of working in the role. Here is a list of questions to ask a mentor:

      • What is required to be successful in the role?
      • What certification or educational development is needed?
      • What are the challenges of the role?
      • Is there potential for career advancement?

      A chat at a coffee shop with a mentor can change your mind about the desire for a career change.

      Find out how to pick a good mentor for yourself in this article: How to Find a Mentor That Will Help You Succeed

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      5. Research Salary

      Some people decide to change careers for a role that pays less or perks like benefits to make up for the difference in previous to potential salary.

      It can reveal the cities throughout the country that offer a higher salary for those that have an interest in relocating for work.

      6. Be Realistic

      If your goal is to move up into an executive position, it is time to be honest about where you are in your career.

      For example, if boardroom meetings, high-level discussions about financials or attending weekly networking events are boring, an executive role may not be right for you. If you are an introvert and working with people every day is nerve wrecking, you need to reconsider a job in sales.

      Ask yourself if you can work in this role for the next five years of your life. If other benefits that come with the role are enticing, other roles are fit that will make you happy.

      7. Volunteer First

      A person that wants to become a manager should take on volunteer opportunities to experience the reality of the position.

      Becoming a committee member to pursue a presidential opportunity can provide a perspective on leadership, maintaining a budget and public speaking.

      Volunteer in a role until you are certain that it is the right opportunity.

      8. Prepare Your Career Tools

      I recommend asking a boss, colleague or mentor for career tools. If you prefer professional assistance, you can seek out resume writing assistance. Here is a list of things to consider when preparing career tools:

      • Online search: Search your name online to see what shows up. I recommend searching images that are on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat or other sites on a personal account. The last thing you want to realize is the job search is unsuccessful because there is unprofessional content you posted online.
      • Be LinkedIn ready: Recruiters conduct a LinkedIn search to see if the work experience is the same on a resume. Remember to change the wording on LinkedIn from the resume, or it will appear there was no effort put into creating the profile.
      • Portfolio: A portfolio of work is recommended for people that work in the arts, writing, graphic design and other fields. I recommend a portfolio online and one that is available in hand when attending job interviews or networking meetups.
      • Cover letter: A good cover writer will always impress your potential employers. Here’s how to write a killer cover letter that stands out from others.

      Bottom Line

      It takes time to move towards a new career. Pay attention to the physical and mental signs to maintain your health. You deserve to work in happiness and come home stress-free. If you avoid the common mistakes people make, you will find a job and discover the role in a career field that is the best fit with your skillsets.

      Master these action steps and changing career paths will be on your terms to make the best decision for your future.

      More About Career Change

      Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

      Reference

      [1] Mental Health America: The State of Mental Health in America
      [2] MIT Global Education & Career Development: Make a Career Plan
      [3] Creately: Personal SWOT Analysis to Assess and Improve Yourself

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