After Sabbatical……

It’s a known fact that the number of people who wish to take sabbaticals is far greater than the number who actually do. However, one has to return to the work place at some point of time. Experts point out that if you continue to remain employable even during your break, it will help you bridge the employment gap.

Picture yourself on a Monday morning, lounging by the poolside of a five star hotel, in the company of a tall pinacolada without worrying about deadlines a pleasant feeling, isn’t it? It ought to, be; after all, it’s your sabbatical. We envy most people who take sabbaticals especially the true adventurous kinds who dare to step into the unexplored, while many of the working people pacify themselves by reading their escapades on blogs. But then the holiday has to end at some point. We are happy to have them aboard yet again, but are they? The reasons why people go on sabbaticals are many – some go on extended maternity leaves some to recuperate from a serious illness, some to pursue a hobby, etc, but the transition of going back to work is daunting. At times like these when India Inc is constantly evolving and industries are witnessing change rapidly, returning to the workplace after a long break does throw some challenges. How does one bridge this employment gap?

People go through a mixed bag of emotions when they plan to go back to work after a long sabbatical. On one hand, they return with replenished energy, renewed commitment, increased confidence and more self awareness, while on the other feelings of being out of touch with the latest technologies, issues related to rebuilding of their position and relationships in the organization, job security concerns, also became a part of the emotions they go through. It is difficult to generalize as different people would have different feelings toward getting back to work after a long sabbatical. While some may use it as an opportunity to work after a revitalizing break, some may get a little apprehensive and nervous about what’s in store for them. A lot of this also has to do with who amongst your co-workers is still there and so the return can be made comfortable if an old relationship exists.

However, are employers today willing to take a chance with job seekers with a long employment gap? In today’s environment talent is the key. Employers are becoming more open to hiring people who have gaps in their CVs, especially if one possesses skills or expertise which are in short supply. They are increasingly looking at what potential candidates bring to the table rather than explainable gaps in the resume. The whole attitude of employers has gone through a paradigm shift. They see a lot of benefits in taking people with an employment gap. A few benefits are listed here:

1) Talent retention — it’s almost impossible for competitors to poach anyone within a few years of anyone within a few years of sabbatical and increased retention saves big time on recruiting and retraining costs,
2) Retained wisdom – these employees already have built up knowledge about the company and relationships with clients and suppliers and
3) Increased productivity, loyalty and commitment – employees coming back from sabbatical are relatively happier. They also return with new skills such as better communication or a heightened awareness of the big picture.

Even if you are busy pursuing your aspirations or trying to re-evaluate your priorities during your sabbatical it is vital that you continue to remain employable. Because when the time to return to the workplace arrives, your lack of preparedness to the changing corporate scenario may give some other candidate an edge over you. During these breaks, one should equip oneself with new competencies that are preferably new in the market and would bring some value addition for the employer. A sabbatical should be used as an opportunity for intentional reflection, personal growth, transformative insights and renewed passion.

First, ensure that you are mentally prepared to make the move to the corporate world again. Then, pick the right opportunity. Be patient and don’t compromise because if you fail, it might affect your entire decision to come back. Pick a job that will make you successful and you like doing and most importantly, once you have joined an organization, be open to learning things from people who may be junior to you.

Sometimes, the age gap might also surprise you since the corporate work force is full of young and energetic employees and so be prepared for that too.

Be in touch with good head hunters who understand your background and hence can project the right picture to the prospective employer. It’s best to bring this up in the covering letter of the resume. It is advisable to clearly explain the circumstances in the face to face meeting. Every experience teaches us a lesson; hence it is important to highlight the positive aspects of your learning during the sabbatical.

Bridging the employment gap does throw a few challenges, but if bridged tactfully it can prove worthy to your employer as well as you.