What Happens in the Real World when the Sabbatical is Over?

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HR legends are made of these: Employee X rounds off a two-year break from work with a spectacular job offer that is an improvement both in terms position and salary. But like we said, that is the stuff legends are made of, for most of us living in the real world the reality of getting back into corporate mainstream is a lot more challenging.

HR professional from Delhi, Swayam Priya who’s aiming to be back to work life following a year’s break for family reasons, tells it like it is: “Unfortunately, the concept of a sabbatical is yet to be completely accepted in India. Prospective employers give you a quizzical look upon mentioning that you were on a break. Very often, the first impression is that having taken a break from work, how serious is one about actually continuing is a career.” Shah has been on a job hunt for a position commensurate with her senior HR profile in a multinational before she quit and readily agrees that the going has not been a cakewalk so far.

But fear not, we are not asking you to put life on hold only because the career ladder beckons. Mayank Chandra, managing partner, Antal International Network explains the silver lining in a nutshell when he says, “While going on sabbatical, especially for men, in India is generally not taken very positively, the scene is a little better for women and it is not very tough to join back. However, they need to give lot of confidence to the prospective employer that they are looking for a long term career. In fact, it is not difficult to get back into the corporate mainstream if the person on sabbatical has continuously worked hard on his/her skills during the break.”

Clearly, the question here is of remaining employable even after having taken a sabbatical. So what does one do to remain relevant?

Course correction

Joseph Devasia, managing partner, Antal, adds to Mayank’s observation when he says that, “India is waking up to the fact that we do not have enough skilled people and that mindset is gradually changing wherein a sabbatical was a complete negative. Hence, the real question for a prospective employer here is not why you went on a break but what is it that you bring to the table when looking for a position with the company.”

A fact very well understood by the many ex-employees who take time out to invest in upgrading their skill sets while on a sabbatical. Take the example of media professional Vandana Soni who opted out of a regular media job almost five years back for a variety of reasons. Finally when the couple shifted to Delhi, Vandana opted for a four year course in the French language. Not only to pronounce ‘escargots’ correctly! But also because she now feels that a foreign language, especially one that is so popular and recognised worldwide is sure to help her greatly while looking for a job. She adds, “In addition to my freelance work, a foreign language will definitely spruce up my CV, especially when I apply for a stint with diplomatic services. Besides, French is a widely used language and one which can help me illustrate my writing much better and which employer would not want a person who has the ability to express oneself in different languages?”

Even Priya is actively considering furthering her HR and management skills with a course in organisational development, a subject which she has always had a great interest in. She says, “The course will definitely benefit my career, while adding to my repertoire of skills.”

Confidence is the trick!

In the end, getting back into the corporate midstream is all about confidence, feel many. And to appear confident and in turn earn the prospective employers’ confidence the ammo can range from more than adequate knowledge of the industry and the company, to enhancing one’s personality.

Parul Seth, who quit her high-flying advertising career when she moved out of Mumbai, only to rejoin the industry several years later, says keeping herself updated about the industry did the trick for her. “You simply cannot let go of info. I was acutely aware of the industry even while on a break. I read up news, views and reviews of the industry and it helped that I kept an active interest in the products and their advertising even when I was in the US. It sounds like a lot but the fact is that it barely took up more than an hour each day. I was instinctively observing all that happened around me and when I began appearing for interviews back in India after the US stint, it was this very knowledge that helped, and of course the deeper human insight I brought to the table, especially regarding Indians abroad, which is a great target market for companies here.”

The great knowledge backup and Paul stint abroad came to her assistance, but she says she had another trick up her sleeve. “The products I had been working for before quitting had reached a certain stage in the market when I came back and I ensured that I peppered my talk with a mention of these products and my work on them. All of these went in to ensuring that the employers got a hint that I was on top of the game even if I was on a break.”

 Mayank Chandra

Managing Partner

Antal International Lucknow

MChandra@antal.com

antalCourtesy of Antal International Executive Consultancy

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