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Finding A Job Post A Sabbatical

Updated: Jul 13, 2023

"Hope is such a bait, it covers any hook."

The idea of a sabbatical is very enticing.

Being able to voluntarily step away from your job to 'rediscover' your self and come back a 'new' person to take on life again is an ideal no one could find fault with.

Yet, that's not the first thing I will talk about.

Instead I will start somewhere towards the end - at the point where a sabbatical ends and most of us resume our careers.

Career longevity has always been important for me. I knew I wanted to come back to a thriving career in the corporate world post my sabbatical. I also wasn't ready to resume at a lower title or compensation than what I left at.

With these 'constraints', it took me nearly 9 months to find a job that I liked.

(Like with everything else, this number will vary from CV to CV. There are some old studies like this and repurposed here that can tell you what to expect - your current salary in Rs L divided by 14 is the number of months you could need to find a job.)

I have tried to process why it took me that long and I have been able to narrow it down to these 3 reasons,

Too Many Unknowns

I was looking for i) a job in India while based in Dubai ii) in the middle of the first COVID wave iii) in a domain which was not my area of strength and iv) at no loss of income and v) no loss of title.

There were too many variables and the more variables there are the longer the search is, always.

My Limited Skills

For nearly 60% of my pre-sabbatical career I had done roles of a similar nature - innovation led growth in FMCG companies.

COVID meant that most companies were not focusing on building for the future but instead on surviving and I suddenly found my skills redundant with no other competency to fall back on.

I must have applied to over 50 companies. I interviewed with 8 and converted 1 and that too because of the side gigs I picked up in my sabbatical and no thanks to my core area of expertise.

Our Outlook On Career Breaks

In my experience, many Indian companies and in turn recruiters do not look favorably at candidates coming back from a break. This bias becomes worse with increasing seniority unless you are ready to scale down your ask on title/compensation.

I remember talking to a consultant at a famous recruiting firm who told me "we don't usually talk to candidates actively looking for a job" - and that is a very good description of almost everyone planning to end their sabbatical.

Which brings me back to where I started - the idea of a sabbatical is great but it needs to be evaluated wrt your life's realities.

Ease of coming back to a job is a function of multiple factors including,

  • How ambitious you are (for the lack of a better word, I use ambition here for the desire to do well in the corporate space)

  • How varied & valued your professional skills are at the point of coming back

  • Your age/seniority at the point of coming back

  • Timing of your sabbatical vis-à-vis the state of the economy (My gut says that with the economy slowing down and likely to be like this for the next one year atleast, this might be a good time to consider a sabbatical)

Albert Einstein said, "Knowledge is realizing that the street is one way; wisdom is looking in both directions anyway." I think a lot about this when I talk to anyone on sabbaticals.

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