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Updating Your CV After a Sabbatical

By: Maggie Lonsdale BA (hons) - Updated: 15 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss
Work Sabbatical Return Cv Voluntary

How you update your CV after a sabbatical makes a huge difference to your return to work possibilities.

If you explain your sabbatical in the right way, you can highlight how much more of a valuable employee you are now that you’ve had this experience, whereas explain it in the wrong way and you sound like a dreamer.

So what is the right way to update your CV after a sabbatical? Well, the first thing to do is to look at the rest of your CV. Don’t do what loads of other people do and just plonk your latest update on the top of your CV without looking at how you can upgrade the whole thing.

Start from the End

Start by reading through the whole CV. You may think this is ludicrous, but really, when was the last time you actually read your CV? This oh-so-important document that you use as your calling card to get your exciting, rewarding paid employment. Quite possibly not for an awfully long time.

Read through your CV and make sure that everything before your sabbatical makes sense, is well written and that there are no spelling mistakes or grammatical errors. Common mistakes include repeating job responsibilities from one job description to the next, making negative points about leaving certain jobs, not having continuity in terms of using first person or fourth person usage or not having an easy-to-read layout. Keep the CV to two pages maximum, regardless of how many times you update it – just reduce the jobs from years ago and stop listing your GCSEs and A levels – and make sure you check how your CV looks when it’s emailed.

Once you’ve checked that the rest of your CV looks good, makes sense and reads clearly, you can get busy with updating to highlight your sabbatical. Well, you may not necessarily want to highlight your sabbatical, but you certainly need to mention it and not have it look like you were just sitting at home watching television for six months.

What Did You Sabbatical Mean to You?

Have a good think about what your sabbatical meant to you in order to make sure you set the right tone. Did you spend some time doing voluntary work overseas that’s now given you a new perspective on teamwork? Did you learn a particular new skill that will add value to your previous experience? Have you picked up a new language? Take time to understand what you’ve achieved, and think about the organisation you worked for, the people you met and the situations you were in. Jot down some notes rather than just start typing onto your CV and you’ll have a better chance of making it sound the best it can.

Having thought about your sabbatical, you can now look back at your CV and see how your new experiences or skills fit into what you’ve done before. For example, if you worked in recruitment before and you spent your sabbatical on a building project in India, perhaps you’ve gained a new perspective on how to motivate people – this can be really used to your commercial advantage. Or perhaps you worked in banking before and spent six months skiing – say that you’ve learned how to use your time more effectively to ensure that projects are finished on time.

Be careful not to sound like a sabbatical bore – people can spot that a mile off if you write too much on your CV. You don’t want potential employers to think that you’ll be jetting off again at any minute, regardless of what skills you’ve got to offer. Essentially you want to say that your sabbatical was an itch that you’ve scratched, an exciting adventure that boosted your skills and now you’re ready to put them into practice as you return to work.

Check and Check Again

Once you’ve written the paragraph on your sabbatical, check back over the rest of your CV to make sure that it still flows; you don’t want your career before the sabbatical to sound all corporate only for your language to go all fluffy when you describe your sabbatical! Keep it in the same language for continuity and to show that you’re ready to return to work, and don’t have your sabbatical paragraph loads longer than your previous employment, a couple of sentences is all you need when you choose your words carefully.

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