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How to Explain a Sabbatical If You Were Taking Care of an Ailing Parent or Loved One

October 16th, 2014

Last week I was doing a LinkedIn consultation with a professional who had taken time (a couple of years?) off to care for her father. She has had a fantastic, awesome career, but didn’t know how to explain her years off.  She asked me how to explain this, and I reached out to career professionals in the Career Directors LinkedIn Group for advice.  The experience these professionals have is broad and deep, which is why I like getting input from different professionals.  Below is what I learned. I hope this can help you if you are in this situation:

don_goodman_headshotDon Goodman, Certified Resume Writer, GotTheJob.com, and reseller of my video course: LinkedIn for Job Seekers

I would say,

Sabbatical (Date) – Attended to urgent family matters now fully resolved,

or

Sabbatical (Date) – Attended to needs of ailing parent now fully resolved,

It is perfectly OK to help family members in need and all the employer needs to know is that it is completed.

mary_schumacher_headshotMary Schumacher, Writer and Coach, CareerFrames.com 

Hi Jason – I would also use a sabbatical statement such as the ones Don provided. I also might just insert a statement such as:

“Took two-year leave to serve as caretaker for parent. Stayed current on industry trends and learning to remain fully prepared for next corporate challenge.”

Employers want to know that your knowledge is up-to-date as far as their needs, and that your skills aren’t rusty. There are plenty of free online courses to help even those very immersed in their caretaker roles.

irene_marshall_headshotIrene Marshall, Executive Resume Writer and LinkedIn Profile Writer, ToolsForTransition.com

Jason — I don’t think it requires a big explanation. I would either put “Family sabbatical,” “Personal Sabbatical” or “Professional Sabbatical” without adding anything else in either resume or cover letter. It just accounts for the time. And I only use years, not months/years.

There are millions and millions of Baby Boomers taking care of parents (myself included). And over the past several years I have worked with many people who have relocated, quit their jobs or took part-time work to handle what their parents need.

It is very common now and nothing your client should be nervous about. You never know that maybe the person reading would have given their eye teeth to be able to take time off work rather than feeling guilty that their job was keeping them from doing it..

I moved my mother with Alzheimer’s into assisted living in January. I was at part-time work until about the end of July because none of her affairs were in order. And I’m still dealing with two attorneys, etc. even though I’m close to full time work now. I would have had to quit a corporate job.

But in the first half of the year there was absolutely no way I could have been doing anything related to my work for keeping up with my industry or anything else. I was up to 3 am, 5 am and more trying to sell my mother’s home and everything else. I would not have been able to even think about online coursework because it frankly was not my top priority and I was exhausted.

And I wouldn’t include “fully resolved” because I think it then puts the reader in a slightly awkward position of assuming that mom or dad actually died.

christine_robinson_headshotChristine Robinson, CPRW, ChristineRobinsonCPRW.com

Jason, I try to be as straightforward as possible, composing a quote based on the client’s circumstance. Also, I usually refer to it as a “professional leave” or “career break” because I feel the word “sabbatical” has some nuances that don’t necessarily apply to every situation.

I place the quote under the Professional Experience heading.

2012 to Oct. 2014: “I took a professional leave to attend to my terminally ill brother; following his passing, I engaged in a variety of professional development opportunities to maintain credentials and volunteer roles to keep abreast of industry trends.”

You get the gist. It may be wordy and it may be slightly shocking, but on the other hand, it leaves nothing to the imagination of the reader. Plus, the dates will (ideally) be captured by ATS.

Thanks to Don, Mary, Irene and Christine for sharing their thoughts – if you have a different idea, please share it in the comments below!

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