How To Take A Sabbatical Without Ruining Your Career

Want to take a sabbatical, but you're not sure where to start? Taking a break from work for a several months isn't just for professors! Click through and find out how one lawyer did it! >>

This guest post comes to us via Petra Zlatevska who took at career sabbatical with her husband in 2009 after they both left their legal jobs in Sydney, Australia. They traveled through Mongolia, China, Thailand, Japan and Europe for four months!

How many times have you been sitting in your office with a full inbox, an annoying boss asking you to churn out yet another meaningless monthly report and what with yesterday’s cuppa soup staining your desk, all the while dreaming about joining an art retreat in the Tuscan foothills?

Well, the good news is that these daydreams don’t have to be confined to your private journal or Pinterest board. In less time than you’d think, you could be at an artist’s retreat or backpacking around Europe.

The bad news is that it is going to take a bit of saving, a lot of motivation and a healthy dose of courage.

How to Take a Sabbatical from Your Career

What I am talking about is a career sabbatical. And no, it is not just for dreary old university professors. The term Sabbatical stems from the Hebrew ‘Sabbath’ and means a period of rest.

A sabbatical could be

  • A creative “time out” in Europe,the Pacific or in Asia at a writer’s, artist’s or spiritual retreat
  • Traveling and backpacking through South America and teaching as you go along
  • Embarking on a new course of study whether an MFA or MBA in another country to prepare for a career change
  • Learning something new for free in your own time and online, just for the hell of it
  • Undertaking some kind of volunteer charitable project on another continent or even in your own hometown or country.

Why should you take a sabbatical?

You will never regret it

We always regret the things that we don’t do in life, rather than the things we did. It may take a while to save up for that time out you’re planning, but you don’t need to squander your life savings.

Take lunch from home, invite friends for dinner instead of eating out, do a few extra jobs (check classifieds section of your local paper), do overtime at work, sell your car, sell old clothes at a yard sale, sell old gadgets on EBay, do private tutoring. Whatever it takes to save up to make your sabbatical planing REAL.

You will join the ranks of countless others who take regular sabbaticals to rejuvenate, think or be inspired

Bill Gates took a twice-yearly “Think Week” to read technical papers. Australian actor and Avatar star Sam Worthington is also taking a time out. And no matter what you think of her book, ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ Author Elizabeth Gilbert also took a career and life break and wrote a best-selling book about it.

You will learn to be assertive, trust your instinct, and forget about material possessions

Taking the plunge to follow a dream or to simply have an adventure, is something that gives you one luxury that the daily grind cannot: TIME. By having the time to figure out what you want and who you are, you’ll open your mind and heart to new experiences.  You’ll realize that what you’re doing is what is RIGHT for you at that particular point in your life, without having to justify it to your partner/parents/friends.

You may meet the love of your life

When you have nothing to fear and are pursuing what you really want to, in a completely neutral place, away from the reminders of life in your hometown, then who knows, your Mr. or Mrs. Right may be right under your nose!

It can enhance your job prospects rather than put a dent in your resumé

One of the greatest fears we have (I know I did) in NOT pursuing a career break or sabbatical is because of how “it could look” to prospective employers upon your return home (if you ever return).

How to “cover the gap” in your resumé for a career sabbatical

Career Sabbatical X DATE – Y DATE

(Then depending on what you did, state the experience then the achievements/skills underneath)

Travel and teaching English abroad:
List all countries and conversational language skills learned or utilized

  • Inter-cultural proficiency and language skills
  • Ability to interact with and understand people from a range of cultural and ethnic backgrounds
  • Taught X language (or course) to a group of X children/adults in a remote, underprivileged community, prepared and researched the curriculum and managed core team of __
Volunteer work:
List organization and website
  • Project Management and Team-building skills
  • Led a large scale development/cultural management/engineering/architectural project with a team of X in X country for X charity or aid agency with a budget of __ and a team of __ ;
  • Managed and negotiated meeting outcomes/goal setting and tracked project progress with stakeholders
  • Management and Team Building:
Foreign language course studies:
State which language, level attained, school and location studied, website of college or university, copy of certificate
  • Language proficiency
  • Significantly improved verbal, reading, writing, listening and social understanding skills in X, Y language/s through intensive language tuition at X school to X level, and home stay experiences
Artist’s /Writer’s/ Spiritual retreat:
State where undertaken, specific focus of retreat e.g painting, fiction writing, yoga ashram
  • Improved lateral thinking, adaptiveness and tolerance through artistic/writers/spiritual retreat
  • Greatly enhanced writing /visual communication/patience/positive psychology skills through intensive contact with other course participants from X;Y continents
  • Produced X,Y work (state outcome e.g draft novel, sculpture/ painting/art exhibition
  • yoga instructor qualifications focusing on diabetes/obesity etc)
Repeat this in an interview, emphasizing that through these life-changing experiences, you’ve increased your personal leadership skills, enhanced teamwork capabilities, and strengthened inter-cultural communication and ability to work with and better understand people from different social and cultural backgrounds.
Don’t forget to include names and contacts of references from your time abroad!
So there you have it – a way to take a break from career or life, have an adventure and come back even more employable than before you left. What a no-brainer!
Have you ever taken a career sabbatical? What did you do and where did you go?

P.S. How to quit one job without another lined up
photo credit: connor mcsheffrey // alan hurt jr // cc

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  1. Kelsi

    I have been DREAMING of doing something like this. I know it is a reality; I just have to do the right prep work to get there. This is a good guide!

    I have spent the entire month of March on a spending fast, meaning I don't pay for anything that isn't a necessary bill or an emergency. I've only eaten what I already have in my house, except for ONE trip to the market to buy more milk and peanut butter. I have not gone to restaurants, bars, movies, cafes, or stores.

    I work for a school district and don't make much money. I own a home and have a mortgage to pay. I have medical expenses and car insurance and energy bills like most people do. Yet, in only ONE month I have managed to save $987!

    I don't know what I've been spending that on up to this point (cocktails? clothing? cookies?) but I'd rather save it and put it towards something I really want. Now I am closer to my goal than ever, and it only took a few weeks of diligence!

  2. caitlin

    Thank you for this. Last year I quit my job and worked in Europe for a year as an au pair. I always feel awkward explaining the gap to people, so this post is super awesome/relevant to my life.

  3. jesstheobscure

    Lovely post, and really encouraging. I've set myself the challenge of saving for a trip next year after 10 years daydreaming about it. Might have to try the spending fast idea too, Kelsi!

  4. Amy

    I quit my job back in December and have been doing freelance this Spring as my boyfriend and I get ready to move to Scotland in the fall as I start a grad program for an MFA in Creative Writing. I can honestly say this 'career sabbatical' has so far been the best decision I've made. I'm a happier and therefore healthier person as I move forward to following two dreams- focusing on my writing for the next two years and obtaining a degree while doing it and living back in the UK. I recommend if you're thinking of doing something similar- to go for it!!!

  5. sarkari jobs

    I think mail thing that prevents people from taking sabbatical is the fear of getting job again. People do not have confidence in themselves. Once they get confidence in self, everything can be achieved.

    • Kami

      Totally true!

  6. Taylor Roades

    I just returned from a five month trip across south east asia and it gave me so much perspective. maybe perspective I didn't want but it was good for me. I'm excited to delve into my career now and I dont think I would be so sure of myself if I didnt do it. 🙂

  7. Bea

    Love this post–and especially love the photo!
    My husband and I try to take "sabbatical summers". It helps us refresh, reset, and re-prioritize.

    A great resource for making this possible is home sharing on –it makes it more affordable for PhD/grad students (like us). We rent out our place and find an affordable place to stay wherever we are going (last year Germany & Czech Rep, this year Austria). Hope that helps some more people get out there and explore the world!

  8. Petra Zlatevska

    Thanks for all your comments and points-this is Petra. I am so happy to learn and read from your experiences that taking a 'time out' of the daily grind of life is something you have either done or plan to do in the future. It can (and indeed should) be turned into something more regular by people in our generation (and older!)

  9. top 10 arcade games

    Awesome read! One of the best top 10 arcade games is Snake beats! Try it once, you will love it!

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