How to Effectively List a Sabbatical on Your Resume

Sabbaticals are no longer a red flag for your resume. Focus on transferable skills to promote your sabbatical in a positive, professional way

a year ago   •   5 min read

By Rohan Mahtani
Table of contents

One thing recruiters are noticing in 2024 is that far more people are taking sabbaticals in recent years. During the pandemic, many people took time away from work to pursue personal and professional development. Sabbaticals are a brilliant way to improve skills and clarify your career goals.

But how do you present a sabbatical on your resume without scaring off potential employers?

Well, good news. Sabbaticals on your resume are not the red flag many candidates believe them to be. When discussed openly and framed in the right way, sabbaticals will not negatively impact your application and can be used to promote your creativity, professionalism, and academic drive.

Below, we will discuss the best ways to present your sabbatical by focusing on the skills you learned during your time off, and how to format and list your sabbatical on your resume.

What classifies as a sabbatical?

A sabbatical is an extended period away from work, usually longer than six months. Sabbaticals are common across all industries and can be professional, academic, or personal in nature. A sabbatical is not the same as a vacation and shouldn’t be used to describe any employment gap on your resume. Instead, the term sabbatical describes a lengthy time away from work where you pursued personal, creative, or professional goals outside of your primary employment.

What is the problem with employment gaps on your resume?

Traditionally, having gaps on your resume has been seen as a negative thing, but that is simply not the case in 2024. Modern employers are aware of the positive impact of sabbaticals on personal and professional growth and understand the impact of pandemic-related layoffs and furlough.

Modern recruiters only notice employment gaps because they raise questions about what you were doing during that time. If your leave was lengthy, longer than 12 months, a few brief sentences to explain your time is all that is needed to alleviate these concerns.

How to highlight transferable skills acquired during your sabbatical

The key to presenting a sabbatical on your resume in a positive light is to highlight the transferable skills you acquired during your time off. Though the focus of your sabbatical might not have been academic or professional in nature, the transferable skills you learned can be.

Consider how you spent your time and how that experience makes you a better candidate. Did you take any courses, qualifications, or participate in any formalized training? Did you practice any hard or soft skills, or learn anything new? Did you engage with your community, travel, or volunteer? Did you pursue creative endeavors, academic research, or publish any work?

It doesn’t matter if your focus was personal rather than professional; find the transferable hard skills hidden in your activities and present them as you would for any previous work experience. Target your transferable skills to each application by researching and using keywords.

And while you’re at it, upload your resume to our Targeted Resume tool to analyze the job description and receive a list of high-yield, competitive keywords that may be missing from your resume.

Common transferable skills that you may have developed during a sabbatical include:

  • Language proficiency
  • Continuing education and qualifications
  • Cultural sensitivity and global awareness
  • Volunteering
  • Teaching
  • Community engagement
  • Project management
  • Skill enhancement
  • Tech/IT/Social media skills
  • Research and academic writing
  • Creative pursuits
  • Academic or creative publishing
  • Freelance or entrepreneurial work

If you're unsure whether you have effectively included the transferable skills acquired during your sabbatical or how to highlight your sabbatical experience correctly, upload your resume to the tool below. It will scan your resume and provide suggestions for improvements.

Examples of how to highlight transferable skills

Below are examples of how to expand on your sabbatical activities to frame your skills in a professional light, with screenshots of how to format these for your resume.

Language and cultural skills

If your leave included travel, consider if you learned a new language, immersed yourself in a new culture, or improved your global awareness or cultural sensitivity. For example:

How to list a personal sabbatical on your resume, focusing on language and travel
How to list a personal sabbatical on your resume, focusing on language and travel

Project management skills

If your sabbatical included personal projects at home, consider how you managed or organized these projects and the positive results of your leadership and organization. For example:

How to list a sabbatical on your resume, focusing on project managemen
How to list a sabbatical on your resume, focusing on project managemen

Qualifications and tech skills

If your leave included technical training or qualifications, list the courses you completed and the skills you obtained, and describe how you used those skills in your work. For example:

How to list a professional sabbatical on your resume
How to list a professional sabbatical on your resume

Interpersonal skills

If your sabbatical included community engagement, volunteering, teaching, or child care, consider any events you organized, the impact of your engagement, and how your community benefitted from your involvement. For example:

How to list a personal sabbatical on your resume

Where to list a sabbatical on your resume

The most common place for your sabbatical is in chronological order in your employment history. You can also list your sabbatical in a separate section if you have other more relevant work experience to present before it.

How to title and format your sabbatical

Title your sabbatical either Professional Sabbatical, Personal Sabbatical, or Sabbatical. You can also include a skill or primary focus in your title, such as personal growth, academic research, language proficiency, or skill enhancement.

Format your sabbatical the same as your employment history, using bullet points and specific dates, and follow standard capitalization rules.

For example:

Professional Sabbatical - Personal Growth and Skill Enhancement, June 2022 - July 2024

Tips on how to present your sabbatical

Be honest

As discussed above, a sabbatical is not the red flag many assume it to be. Employers value honesty and transparency, and will appreciate you being upfront and forthcoming about any breaks in your career.

Highlight transferable skills

Soft skills or hard skills, qualifications or personal pursuits, whatever you spent your sabbatical doing, there is a transferable skill in every activity that can be used to positively promote your experience.

Make it relevant

Choose transferable skills that are relevant to your application. Scan the job description using a keyword finder to find keywords recruiters are actively looking for, and use these keywords to describe the skills and experience you gained during your sabbatical.

You can use the tool below to find hard skills and keywords relevant to the job you're applying for.

Be specific

Specific examples of skills, qualifications, and experience make it easier for a recruiter to understand the benefit of your sabbatical and make your experience relevant and impactful.

Don’t exaggerate or misrepresent

You don’t need to oversell the professional impact of your sabbatical. A few words describing what you did is enough to fill the gap and let your other work experience expand on your academic and professional skills.

Don’t apologize

There is nothing wrong with taking time to focus on personal growth. An employee who cares about their work-life balance and is proactive in pursuing their goals is an asset to an employer, not a liability, and recruiters recognize the positive potential of sabbaticals. Don’t apologize for your time off, and be confident in talking about your experience and career goals.

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