You are here
Can a sabbatical save your career?
We’re familiar with the saying, “Life’s a marathon not a sprint”, generally applied to scenarios that require pacing and patience. Basically, great things take time. But have you ever thought of your career as a marathon and not a sprint?
Depending on your level of education, you may have started full-time work anywhere between the age of 16 to 21. Considering the average retirement age is 62.9 years, this means you have over 40 full years of work in your lifetime. Even if you’re lucky enough to earn a salary that allows you to bring your retirement age down to say, 55, you’d still be in the workforce for well over three decades.
RELATED: Are you stuck in a rut at work?
You may be one of the lucky few who loves what you do, where work doesn’t feel like work at all. However, for most of us, work can sometimes feel like a never-ending stream of stress, long days and living for Friday or that next big holiday. That’s no surprise given that 57% of Australians say work is the biggest contributor to stress in their lives.
If you’re feeling burnt out from your job, a sabbatical might be just what you need to gain some perspective and come back to work with a renewed focus.
RELATED: How to gain career clarity and focus
But what exactly is a sabbatical and is it right for you?
What is sabbatical leave?
A sabbatical is defined as a career break where you take an extended period of leave from your current job to pursue other interests, such as travelling, a new hobby or passion, or personal development. The idea is that taking a sabbatical will give you the opportunity to change your environment and find a different perspective. This, in turn, could help renew your passion for your current career or give you the chance to explore a different direction altogether.
While some companies and enterprise agreements in Australia offer short career breaks, there’s no overarching legislation for a sabbatical — meaning, it’s up to you to decide what you need and how you’d like to go about it. You could either request leave without pay from your existing employer framing it around wanting to take a break to pursue other passions and interests, or even choose to leave your company completely. When you find yourself on the hunt for a new job, be sure to ask these potential future employers about their sabbatical policy and process.
3 important things to keep in mind
- You’ll generally need to self-fund sabbatical leave so having savings, or a plan for another source of income, will ease the financial pressure during your break. This way, you don’t end up more stressed after your sabbatical.
- Depending on how long you’ve been working and how long you’d like off, your career break could last anywhere between three months to a full year sabbatical.
- If you want to stay with your existing company and take leave without pay, you generally won’t accrue sick leave or annual leave. However, it will count as part of your continuity of service when calculating your period of service for long service leave.
Tips for taking sabbatical leave
A sabbatical can be incredibly rewarding for your career but it’s crucial to plan ahead. Whether it’s in six months or a year, chances are you’ll want to return to work in some way, shape or form. To ensure it’s as smooth as possible, keep these tips in mind:
- Be honest with yourself. There’s a difference between needing a long holiday, being unhappy with your employer and needing to completely reevaluate your career trajectory. Sit down and really think through the reasons for wanting a sabbatical before doing anything drastic. For example, if you’re unhappy with your current company, it’s worth checking out roles in other companies before choosing to take a sabbatical.
- Have an objective. Why are you taking a sabbatical and what are you aiming to achieve in that time away? Separately, what would you gain as a result?
- Agree on expectations. You should have the terms of your sabbatical in writing but importantly, have transparent discussions with your boss about both your expectations. This should include when you’ll be returning to work, what that will look like, and what happens if you decide not to return.
- Don’t check out completely. Time off doesn’t mean dropping off the radar. If you lose touch, it’ll be harder to find your way back in or find new opportunities that interest you. Try to stay active on LinkedIn and keep in touch with old colleagues, so you’re top-of-mind for any exciting projects or roles that come up.
- Use your time productively. A career break isn’t the same as a holiday. While it’s perfectly normal to use your sabbatical to see more of the world, it’s important you also use this time to develop new skills or explore new avenues. This could be through upskilling and taking courses online or networking with like-minded professionals. This way, you have tangible outcomes to bring to the table when you return to work.
Ultimately, a sabbatical can bring about plenty of benefits for your career, if you approach it in the right way. For more on the power of having a break from work, watch this TEDTalk by Stefan Sagmeister called The Power of Time Off.