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Explain Your Sabbatical on Your Resume

Kim Isaacs | Monster Resume Expert

Once typical in the careers of tenured professors, sabbaticals aren’t just for academics anymore. Millions of people across industries leave the workforce each year, pausing their careers to pursue other interests.

Reasons for such a break may include returning to school, traveling, volunteering, conducting research, writing a book or caring for a family member. Some sabbaticals are planned, while others are forced due to unexpected unemployment or a change in personal circumstances. Sabbatical lengths can vary greatly, from a few months to a year or longer.

If you are ready to reenter the workforce after a sabbatical, we’ve got answers to common questions about how to best handle this period of time on your resume.

Should I Mention My Sabbatical on My Resume?

“Your resume should portray you in the best possible light, so the answer to this question is different for each person,” says Linsey Levine, career coach and president of CareerCounsel.

Levine points out that for many people, an unexplained gap could hurt a person’s chances of finding a job. “Some employers may even speculate that you were incarcerated or incapable of working if a time period is left unaccounted for on the resume,” she says.

But Ford R. Myers, an outplacement expert and president of Career Potential, has this take: “You can turn a potential negative (a gap in employment) into a positive and present yourself as a more knowledgeable and energized employee.”

Michelle Dumas, a certified resume writer and executive director of Distinctive Documents, recommends including most sabbaticals on your resume. Dumas has worked with many clients who have taken time off to volunteer, care for a sick relative, write a book or help with a business endeavor. “In nearly all of these cases, we can find a way to present the time off as a positive and show how these activities enhanced the person’s qualifications,” she says. "Even if the work-history gap was a forced sabbatical, most job seekers can come up with ways in which they stayed productive.”

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