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Sabbatical: Battling with it or Batting for it

, May 7, 2015, 3 Comments

Sabbatical time out-MarketExpress-inWhat does a “sabbatical” bring to your mind? Relaxation, rejuvenation, re-creation … Now imagine that you are a young aspiring and thriving women executive, at the prime of your career graph, planning for a sabbatical for child rearing and caring.

What does a “sabbatical” bring to your mind?

Getting on a “mom track” from a full-fledged career track is not an easy task. No matter how noble the cause, the pangs of moving off the highway, right in to the parking lot can be very traumatizing. In fact numerous women executives shudder at the thought of being away from the helm of activity and re-entering the world of work after a “personal sabbatical”.

Karuna, a Global Marketing manager of a garment export house, was tired of coping with work pressures and an overriding guilt of neglecting two daughters. She finally decided to take a sabbatical to be with them during the most impressionable age. The 2 years thereafter were a roller coaster ride. “I would keep vacillating from extreme positive to extreme negative feelings during this period. I would sit at home catering to my daughters’ needs, missing my precious moments at work and my action packed quarters.

Some days left me very angry, miserable and guilt-stricken for not being able to enjoy my time as planned. There was a nagging fear of lagging behind and becoming obsolete.” A soul searching exercise accompanied a certificate course in brand management helped her make a good come back when she was ready.

The secret of managing your sabbatical lies in focusing on fundamental principles of planning and goal setting. It means raising some basic question and finding their answers;

Do I want to go back?

For most mothers the answer is a firm Yes. Yet the thought fails to evoke the planning required during this time. The first rule to bear in mind is to keep the professional network alive. Often times one may lose total touch with colleagues & associates and want to revive the relationships just before the desire to make a comeback. Keeping abreast of who is moving where, gathering which skill set and sharing what experiences becomes a key to map the road ahead for oneself.

Do I want to come back to the same trade?

Shikha who worked in the finance department of a mid-sized engineering firm, decided to take a sabbatical to manage her son’s chronic illness. This 1.5 year opened up a number of socialization avenues for her such as self-help groups, blog interactions with parents and professionals and voluntary associations with some NGOs.

When she returned back to her work she realized that she enjoyed people interaction more than her domain. This made her to take up a course in HR and pursue a career in people management thereafter. Sometimes a sabbatical offers a great opportunity to align one’s career goals to one’s passions and desires. Thus an exploration of a “to be or not to be” in the same stream of work is most essential.

Is it a one big vacation?

Experts see two types of reactions in women planning a sabbatical. Some look at it as a vacation, hoping to join backs exactly at the same point where they left. Such unrealistic optimism may lead to complacency, obsolescence and dejection. On the other hand some women want to plan every move, refusing to live in the “here and now “and defeating the sheer purpose of a sabbatical. Some of the points to remember while striking a golden mean are:

A comeback may or may not be as exciting as the old stint, at least for some time. Sabbatical is not merely milking the old cow but nurturing and growing a new plant with patience, perseverance and positive attitude.

While all of us may strive for plan A, having a plan B always gets one to equip oneself with awkward situations such as rejections and delays in a comeback

It’s good to seek projects that may not pay but may help you create a mark. In fact a sabbatical is the best way to let your creative juices flow.

Robert Austin, a renowned faculty of the Harvard and Copenhagen Business School provides empirical evidence to prove that a sabbatical can kick off creative ideas, which would not emerge in the otherwise routine life.

Invest in areas that are new and emerging. Deepalaxmi, who is currently on a year’s sabbatical, has taken up a course in data analytics, as she believes that it will give her an edge while joining back the IT world.

Can I move from inept to adept?

This is only possible if one focuses on gathering complimentary skills. Deepali Nair, Chief Marketing Officer, Mahindra Holidays says about her sabbatical, “My sabbatical taught me how to look at my career objectively and brought about the need to add new skill-sets. I have always been a voracious reader but the assignments from US during my sabbatical forced me to read at another level altogether and the editor I worked me truly taught me how to execute ‘brevity’ in my writing”. Engaging in meaningful activities such as writing articles, taking up online courses, attending seminars and conferences in one’s field, not only keeps one update of the current happenings but also hones skills-sets that the future employer may value.

Do I respect my sabbatical?

A sabbatical should attract greater applause than appals. So never be apologetic about it. A simple acknowledgement of the fact that a personal sabbatical was a priority at a particular age and stage of one’s life creates a legitimate value for its existence on the CV and a valid place for one in the organization.

Thus a sabbatical can truly become a rejuvenating, refreshing and an inspiring experience. All you need to do is to choose to look at it with a right spirit and perspective.

  • PVRajeevS

    Make the best use of a possible sabbatical. Everyone needs it some time or the other. See how the Congress Party VP was rejuvenated after his sabbatical

  • SakshiB

    awesome article…showcases sabbatical in a new way rather than just being a period of relaxation and break from career, can be seen as a period when one acquire new skill sets and expand one’s horizons

  • Deepikadabke

    I completely second that especially in today’s times of professional must dos such periods are a must for advancement coupled with sense of fulfilment