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Boosting Your Career During a Sabbatical

By: Sarah Knowles BA, MA - Updated: 13 Oct 2010 | comments*Discuss
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No longer reserved just for academics, a sabbatical is a period of time off work, usually awarded due to length of service. It can be added to regular leave and in some cases is paid. Often, people can use a sabbatical as they wish, to backpack round the world, spend time with family or visit friends abroad.

Under other circumstances a sabbatical is for specific purposes only: for employees to pursue job-related or academic research, training or other work pertaining to their field.

What Are the Benefits of a Sabbatical?

Sabbaticals often give people the opportunity to explore different career options by retraining, studying something new, or even testing the water in a different profession. If you decide that the new career path is not for you, you'll have the chance to return to your old job. Whatever happens, chances are you'll return with a more positive attitude toward work and increased motivation.

With sabbaticals, everyone benefits. The majority of companies see sabbaticals as a way to retain people. Conversely, many people want to work for companies that allow their workers to go on extended career breaks. And if you come back with enhanced experiences, better skills and improved qualifications, you can't lose. You could see a promotion as far as your current position is concerned, and your salary could rise.

Points to Keep in Mind When Considering a Sabbatical

  • Some firms may allow unpaid leave but still require their employees to take a course or series of exams that will make them more qualified when they return to work.
  • Employees seeking promotion when there is nothing on the immediate horizon for them can use a sabbatical to enhance their qualifications and experience to obtain a promotion upon their return.
  • During periods of economic stability, an unpaid sabbatical is often encouraged by employers as a way to retain employees in the long-term. By taking advantage of this, employees not only keep their jobs, but can enhance them at the same time.
  • Sabbaticals abroad can have far-reaching benefits. People who have worked and lived abroad earn on average 10 percent more than those who have not ventured outside their home country, according to one study.

Planning Your Sabbatical

People go on a sabbatical for many reasons, but if you plan on looking forward to a better career upon your return, here are four of the best plans for career enhancement.

  • Study. Take time off to learn a foreign language, complement your existing degree or get involved in further education. You may even want to study something entirely different – this is your opportunity to do what you have always dreamed of doing.
  • Volunteer. Employers tend to look favourably on people who have done volunteer work, either at home or abroad. Whether you work to save endangered species in the Amazon, build wells in South America or volunteer at Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, helping others helps you to learn more about yourself and become a more experienced and well-rounded employee. Look online for more information.
  • Retrain: Learning something new is always a plus. Your employer may ask you to train in a related field or do something that will help you in your existing job.
  • Travel: Worldwide travel is always an eye-opener, and people who are well-travelled are often valued more highly at work than those who stay in one place.

Sabbaticals are a fantastic way to not only enhance your academic or professional qualifications, but also reflect on your career to date and make a plan of action for the future. An American survey claims that employees who returned from sabbaticals with an “updated skills set” was the major reason for their hiring. At the least, you'll have ample time to recharge your batteries and return to your job feeling refreshed, with a rejuvenated outlook.

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