Returning from the wilds of a career sabbatical

career-sabbaticalMid January is generally considered the start of the working year in Australia with most people returning to work following a Christmas and New Year’s break.  For me, the buzz after the New Year celebrations along with the excitement of what 2017 promises to offer continues. Still, I can’t help but look back.

I don’t know about you, but 2016 was a very interesting year for me, and I’m not referring to Carrie Fisher, David Bowie, Prince, or George Michael. It started with a challenging tech startup experience in Europe, followed by a very enjoyable career sabbatical. The year ended on a high. I had some great adventures, had plenty of much needed ‘me time’ and importantly, a return to the workforce.

Having said that, if I could travel back in time, as ‘post sabbatical Jason’ to advise ‘embarking sabbatical Jason’, I would have told myself …’If you’re thinking about a career sabbatical, the below five key simple tips will make it great:

  1. Stop multi-tasking – Do not walk and text or text and watch TV. You have the time to do everything independently.  Focus on one thing at a time. Enjoy your morning coffee at your favourite café. Watch the punters head to work. Look around. Breathe. Relax. When your mind is completely clear, and you feel like you need to act, pick up the phone and reply to a single text. Don’t reply to all texts. Space your text response. Breathe. Relax. The truth is, you need something to do in the afternoon.
  2. Stop planning – or plan to do nothing. If you must, plan an activity that will help you breathe, relax, breathe. The truth is, the only planning during a sabbatical should relate to a holiday or what time of day you visit the gym and beach.
  3. Stop thinking – you do not need to think about anything apart from what to eat and drink and when to go to the beach. Of course, if you must think, think deep breaths, picture the word ‘Relax’ and do it (breathe, relax, and go to the gym, beach, or both). Are you detecting a theme here?
  4. Embrace social media – it is extremely important that you regularly post pictures to ensure your friends and former colleagues are kept up to date, every day, while you embrace your sabbatical adventures. Consider your social media activity as upskilling or training.
  5. Start mindfulness meditation – becoming a regular user of mindfulness helps you relax deeper into the sabbatical and deal with the moments when you think your life is falling apart because you’re not working and earning money!

Sometime towards the end of your sabbatical when you find some time between breathing, relaxing, the gym and the beach, perhaps you should consider some light thinking about your next career step, update your CV and apply for some roles.

The below 5 tips are important to remember when you return to work; 

  1. Start multi-tasking – OMG learning to text and walk while holding a coffee on the way to the office is still a work in progress.
  2. Start planning – Who is going to iron my shirt, plan and prepare my meals, clean my apartment and when do I do my washing?  What do you mean I can’t go to the gym at 10am? And how many times did I turn up at gym in my first few weeks back to work with various items of clothing missing due to poor planning!
  3. Start thinking – I remember wondering what language people were speaking in meetings and realised it was ‘business talk ‘(ROI, strategy, forecasts, targets). I had to add the words ‘focus, listen, think, engage’ to my sabbatical two-word mantra ‘breathe, relax’ A refresh on business acronyms also helped.
  4. Keep embracing social media – your friends and former colleague will thoroughly enjoy that you are off the beach and you should also continue your commitment to your upskilling. Stay connected.
  5. Maintaining mindfulness meditation – continue with mindfulness as it will help deal with the moments when you thoroughly miss your sabbatical time, your afternoon naps and mid day gym and beach sessions. Remember, keep calm, breathe, and relax.

I thoroughly enjoyed the sabbatical lifestyle, but I am very happy to be working and earning a salary again.   Three months into working again, I am maintaining a good work-life balance, most weekends are mine, I don’t look at work emails at night, I have a great person ironing my work shirts, my gym bag is packed perfectly, and most importantly, I’m maintaining my daily mindfulness meditation.  Bring on 2017!


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