How to Take a Career Sabbatical Without Affecting Your Career Progression

Will you be taking a year off from work to fulfill your dreams?

See Also: Could Taking a Sabbatical Enhance Your Career?

It may be counterintuitive, but since the financial crisis of 2009 the private sector has embraced sabbaticals. This period of paid or unpaid time off has been popular over the past few years for both employers and employees. One-quarter of United States small businesses offer sabbaticals, while one-third of U.S. workers would be willing take the unpaid sabbatical to avoid layoffs.

Aside from staving off unemployment and pink slips, workers take sabbaticals for a number of reasons, such as starting a family, traveling the world, returning to the classroom and even delving into a new career. Sabbaticals allow professionals to take a reprieve from their jobs - we’re always on the go.

Despite the coquettish nature of sabbaticals, many are apprehensive because they feel it could derail their career progression and hurt their prospects. But if you plan it wisely taking a career sabbatical could be one of the best decisions you could ever make.

Here are seven ways to take a career sabbatical without affecting your career progression:

1. Set a Reasonable Start & End Date

When you’re in the process of mulling over a career sabbatical, do not tell yourself, your family or your boss "soon" or "I will eventually." It’s important, and responsible, to establish a start and end date. This way you can meticulously plan your finances appropriately and your employer can find a substitute to fill in for this timeframe. Also, make it a reasonable period; for instance, April to December as opposed to April to May.

2. Speak With Your Employer

Once you have spoken with your family and agreed to take a sabbatical, your next step is to speak with your employer. Depending upon your profession, tenure and salary, the company could offer you a paid sabbatical, which could still make it difficult for your employer to acquiesce to your sabbatical. However, if it’s unpaid, then they could certainly agree.

3. Budget Your Finances

Now that you have a start and end date, you’re going to have take a look at your finances, review your budget and see what you can cut back on over the next several months. If you refrain from establishing a short-term budget, then your sabbatical won’t be a relaxing one. 

Also, it’s imperative to determine if you have any debt and if it’s possible to eliminate it immediately. Moreover, how will you pay for your daily expenses? Here are a few things to consider: 

  • Take a portion of your savings and use it to cover day-to-day expenses. 
  • If you’re married, then you can ask your spouse to take on additional expenses.  
  • Apply for a minimal part-time job that will only be around 15 to 20 hours a week. 
  • If applicable, you can use any supplementary income, like website revenue or rental property income, to help pay your daily expenditures. 

You’re going to have to practice fiscal restraint over the next little while. Without financial prudence and cash in your hand, your sabbatical could be derailed almost immediately.

4. What Will You Be Doing?

In the planning stage, you’ll be writing down a list of what you hope to be doing and accomplishing. Your career sabbatical could consist of an array of different goals:

  • Raising your family
  • Trekking around the world
  • Going back to school
  • Volunteering
  • Discovering yourself

If you’re a procrastinator, then a sabbatical may be the worst thing for you. Why? Because instead of doing something you may risk doing nothing at all. Instead of learning a new skill, you’ll be shackled to the sofa watching Netflix all day and gaining 10 pounds eating Doritos.

5. Maintain & Update Skillset

Whether you’re taking a sabbatical or on maternity leave, every professional risks being a dinosaur in their industry, even if it’s just a few months. Today’s corporate landscape and marketplace are constantly evolving and you have to keep up. During your time off, it’s crucial to maintain your skill set and perhaps update your skills, knowledge and expertise. This means when you return to your occupation, you’ll be able to keep up.

6. Volunteer Your Time

Sometimes, simply offering your time for free could be a worthwhile endeavor. Volunteering for a charity, a startup or a nearby school can offer a tremendous learning experience. It could even prompt you to switch careers.

7. Create an Exit Strategy

The sabbatical is close to coming to an end. Now is the time to start speaking with your employer about returning to work, taking another look at the state of your finances and keeping a normal schedule again. An exit strategy makes the final two weeks and your return to civilization a lot easier.

See Also: How to Explain a Sabbatical on Your Resume

Career sabbaticals can be one of the greatest investments you can make in both your personal life and career. Sabbaticals provide you the opportunity to complete personal projects, determine what you really want to do with your life and if you’re currently happy. If you can afford it, then you should take advantage of it right away. You won’t want life to pass you by and leave you asking the question: "what if ?"


Your Sabbatical




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