Take a sabbatical from work? Yes, please!

By: Alythea Ho

Recently I went on a three-month sabbatical. Against every pragmatic Singaporean fibre in my being, I took the plunge and told my boss I needed a break.

Translation: I’m tired of crawling to work every Monday morning. I quit.

Yes, so I left my job. Because I planned ahead, my world didn’t collapse overnight. Bills were still paid on time. I didn’t wake in the middle of the night screaming like a fiend about ‘zero bank accounts’.

Instead, I took the opportunity to benefit from…

Gaining new experiences

Sometimes, a fresh context is all you need to put perspective on your immediate situation. Traveling is one great way to spend your sabbatical. You experience new cultures, meet people from different backgrounds, and learn to look beyond ourselves.

My travels took me from bowing to a 20-m tall bronze statue of Dear Leader Kim Jung Il in North Korea, to eating the most amazing mohinga at a grubby street stall in Myanmar.

And clichéd as it seems, I came back from these dictatorship/former dictatorship nations with a greater appreciation of what I have in Singapore. Really.

Pursuing passion and other interests

Are there interests you’ve always wanted to do, but didn’t have time to do so? A sabbatical is a good opportunity to revisit or explore new hobbies.

After mulling over several options (extreme sleeping came in a close third), I picked up horse riding. It gave me the chance to reconnect with a horse-loving friend, and more importantly, meet new people with similar interests.

And who knows, as you dust off your old guitar, you might just discover you love it too much to leave it as a hobby.

Learning new skills

Learning skills keeps your mind sharp, and also shows your employer/future employers that you’re not whittling your time away on booze and snooze. How about brushing up on your Excel skills? Or maybe you could start on those language lessons you’ve been procrastinating on.

Perhaps it’s the Singaporean work ethos that’s so ingrained in us, but I used my new-found freedom to pick up a skill that would help in my next job -- social media management. I became a freelancer, and enjoyed the control over how I spend my time.

Time to discover yourself

Finally, a sabbatical is an excellent opportunity to refresh mind, body, and spirit. You get to slow down and do a stock-take of your life, which is one of the hardest things to do in busy Singapore.

Maybe you discover there are more important things in life besides work, such as health and relationships. Or perhaps you learn that what you really want is a complete career overhaul and not just a break from your job.

For me, I learned I was in the wrong industry. I spent four years at a job I didn’t like, but because of familiarity I was loathe to explore new career avenues. Taking a break was instrumental in pushing me out of my comfort zone.

Yes, I know. A sabbatical from your job can be terrifying. But with proper planning, it could be one of the best decisions you make.

Been on a sabbatical? Or are you planning to take one soon? Share your experiences with us in the comment box below!

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