Handling a Sabbatical

Recently, I heard this story of a Mumbai based marketing manager, who left a stable and secure job, to take up an assignment with a Pune based MNC but after a brief stint of eight months was asked to leave. Apparently, the MNC is going through a major cost cutting exercise and has decided to do away with the post. After leading a high-profile, high perquisite life he suddenly finds himself at crossroads.

In these days of reengineering, downsizing, such stories are abounding. Sometimes you could be a misfit or have values different from the organizations and be asked to leave or be pressurized into resigning.

Unlike in the west where sabbaticals are a way of life, in India being without a job is seen as a social stigma. Your neighbors give you these very inquisitive looks, relatives ask searching questions, friends do not return calls and people whom you thought were well-wishers look the other way. One day you are seen driving a Ford Escort and the next your dodgy old Maruti 800. Suddenly you loose the importance that comes with a job. All this could be very damaging to one’s self-esteem. If not handled well it could lead to depression.

How does one a handle a Sabbatical?

The first thing a person should ask himself “Why do I find myself in this situation today?
Was I at fault or is it the result of something that was outside my control. If the former is true it calls for some introspection. It might be useful to sit with a friend and run through the sequence of events for him to help you pin-point what went wrong. After having given vent to your feelings you would feel better and be able to evaluate the past in a dispassionate manner. Remember we all make mistakes. As long as we learn from them its fine. In the case the latter is true; just take it in your stride.

Amongst the first worries is, how will I manage without a monthly pay-cheque? It would be useful to begin with a review of your investments. This would help in calculating how much of your expenditure would be funded out of income from investments and by dipping into savings. Examine various investment options to give yourself the best return.

During this time, you realize the value of money and remember the times you were thrifty. I remember the time I spent Rs 9,000/ on taking my team out for lunch at Gaylords only to regret later.

Do what makes you happy. Think of all the good things that you have been blessed with and pray for the ones that have not.

Your mission should be to keep yourself usefully occupied and add value to yourself continuously. This could be done by reading, surfing the net, learning how to cook, writing, playing with the kids, learning Yoga, understanding the Geeta. Look at the break as a God sent opportunity to overcome your weaknesses. Try and do things that you dreamt of but never had the time to do. Perhaps, a holiday to the Himalyas, Niligiris, river-rafting, could rejuvenate you. For one do not try and get on your wife’s nerves by constantly interfering in household affairs or remove frustrations on your children. Any of these two could ruin the environment at home robbing you of emotional support at a time when you need it most. Do things that make your wife happy. Serve her tea by the bedside. Try and get happiness by doing small things. Depending on how old your children are explain the situation to them. Through your actions reassure them that their needs would be taken care off.

As you would do on a normal working day get ready by 9 a.m. the only difference being that you are ready to begin your Value Addition day. Plan your day keeping in mind that you provide enough variety in your routine to prevent boredom from setting in. Avoid sleeping in the afternoon. Follow this schedule for five days a week and on weekends, do what you would have done if you had a job, going to the bank, vegetable shopping etc. Daily walks, workouts, swimming shall keep you fit.

 Such a schedule would keep your mind alert, occupied and prevent you from getting agitated unnecessarily. In a tough situation, thinking positive is half the battle won.

Simultaneously approach headhunters. The first thing to do is to prepare a crisp resume highlighting your achievements in each assignment. The resume should be presented in a manner that a person reading it must want to meet you immediately. Identify headhunters you would approach since some of them are industry specific. At the same time network with friends, past employers, colleagues, associates, consultants.

It’s important to keep in touch with headhunters so that they remember you when an assignment comes their way. Sitting at home waiting for the telephone to ring shall not land you anywhere. Pursue headhunters without making it known that you are desperate. Easier said than done, though.

Some of us expect to get a job for every interview that we go for. Such an approach can only lead to unhappiness. Think of a Eureka Forbes salesmen who go house to house and probably, sells one vacuum cleaner to every tenth household. Remember, in life, you win some and loose some.

Do not entertain negative thoughts for eg Mr. Srinivasan asked you to call at 10 a.m. You called but he was in a meeting and could not take the call. If you think negative you will assume that he is avoiding you. He could have actually been in a meeting. In case he does not return your call in two days, call him again. It’s quite possible his secretary gave him the message but pre-occupied with his own problems, he forgot all about it. Thinking positive, is one of the keys to success. At the same time be smart enough to pick up subtle hints about lack of interest in your candidature. This shall grudgingly earn you respect from all.

In a mood of despondency some of us might visit an Astrologer. While I have the highest regard for astronomical sciences, just because the astrologer predicts a job would happen in three months you cannot relax waiting for it to fall in your lap. Renunciation of action does not bring success. Running away from life is not the way to reach your goal. A true warrior is one who tirelessly fights the inner contradictions to gain victory over his mind and desires.

 In life, nothing is static. There will always be moments of joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain. We must learn to accept it as part of a package called Life. Try and be happy in every situation that you find yourself in.

Surely, a job will happen someday. We would be happy, celebrate and get back to a normal routine being happy someday and unhappy another, forgetting some of the valuable lessons learnt earlier. If, only we could learn to live life in equanimity, unaffected by success and failures, the ups and downs, a  sabbatical would be worth its weight in gold. 

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