Writing by Peter Hilton

My 2014 six-month sabbatical

Things to do with more than a few months off work 2023-07-25 #career

olga safronova

  1. 2004 sabbatical
  2. 2014 sabbatical ←
  3. 2023 sabbatical
  4. Sabbatical consultant interview

In 2014, I had the opportunity to spend six months in London. I once lived in Paris for six months, and figured that I should try London now I had the chance. I’d enjoyed Paris, but ultimately found the lifestyle unsustainable, and suspected that a limited period in London would also suit me.

Follow an opportunity

It seemed reasonable to propose working remotely, but my employer didn’t see it that way. Meanwhile, my first sabbatical ten years earlier made me optimistic about the value of taking another. I reasoned that I would get more from the opportunity than from staying put, so I quit my job and went.

I made a good decision, despite the uncertainty, because I could afford the risks. What I didn’t expect was how energised I would feel from choosing a new adventure. It turned out that having enough savings to take six months off work coincided with being too stuck in a routine, and gaining new energy from the change.

Escalate a hobby

Throughout my sabbatical, I indulged in my hobby, singing early music. I used my free time to join more workshops, groups and performances than I’d previously had access to, in the Netherlands’ quieter early music scene. This escalated to joining The Renaissance Singers, a choir at a higher level than I’d ever experienced before.

Doubling down on a hobby took at least as much time and focus as studying Spanish in Madrid during my previous sabbatical. As before, I got a lot of satisfaction from improving my skills, despite their lack of obvious professional relevance. At the same time, I was also inspired to advance my software development career.

Get a job interview by networking

Living near Silicon Roundabout in London presented excellent professional networking opportunities. London offered a dozen tech meet-ups every day, including lunchtime events, so I went to one most days. I met a lot of interesting people with interesting jobs at these events, and chose a goal for my sabbatical to capitalise on the conversations there: get a new job without writing a CV.

One opportunity arose from a chance meeting at a conference I wasn’t attending, while looking for a London Java Community meet-up at the venue that I never found. A conversation with a conference vendor led to dinner, a conversation about automation, and a trip to Berlin for a job interview.

Get a job by blogging

Since my previous sabbatical, I’d spent the last ten years increasing the amount of writing I did at work, including writing my employer’s marketing web site. I missed writing for myself, though, so when I started the sabbatical, I got started on a a long backlog of blog post titles that had never suited the company tech blog. I published a blog post most weekdays for the first couple of months, July-September 2014.

Writing about software introduced me to B2B content marketing. A conversation about that with a previouus acquaintance led to writing three articles about his prodcut in exchange for an expenses-paid trip to Web Summit 2014 in Dublin:

  1. Effektif hosted BPM
  2. Custom development with Effektif
  3. Systems integration with Effektif

This collaboration led to my next job, writing back-end code and content marketing for Effektif (now SAP Signavio Process Governance). And I never wrote a CV.

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