Circumstances: Negotiating a Sabbatical

If you are in a position where you like your job and the company that you work for, but feeling burnt out, a sabbatical may be for you!

We recently profiled a couple, Ben & Alonna, who started on their year of travel in August of 2009. Both worked for HP and while Ben decided to leave his job, Alonna was able to negotiate a year leave of absence.

If you are thinking this may be the way for you, follow some of Alonna’s tips on how she successfully negotiate for the time off.

Ben & Alonna in Bruges Before approaching my employer about the break, I spent a lot of time researching, getting advice, and preparing a proposal.
My research included online searches for other people doing similar things, and looking up the policies at my company for unpaid leaves. Finding the policy at my company was straight-forward; they allow up to a one-year unpaid leave for personal reasons to be approved by management and HR.

Searching online turned up a few good articles and websites, but I think Briefcase to Backpack is a great addition and fills in a lot of gaps. Just hearing about people in similar situations helps a lot when you’re starting out.

Next I sought advice from multiple people in my company who I trusted. I asked what they thought of the idea and how I should present it. They had great advice and gave me confidence in my plans.

Finally, I prepared a proposal document which described:

  • What I want (1-year unpaid leave of absence)
  • Why I deserve it (included a list of accomplishments at the company thus far)
  • What I would gain (new skills, renewed motivation, personal growth)
  • How my work would be covered (a list of items and people who could help out)

When I presented this to my manager he was supportive right away and worked with me to get it officially approved. I think the fact that I was a high-performer and presented a well thought-out plan helped a lot.

Alonna had an advantage in that her company was already open to the idea of offering sabbaticals. But if your company doesn’t have a program in place, it’s still worth negotiating one – especially if you are a valued employee.

YourSabbatical, a company that partners with businesses on developing sabbatical programs, offers these five conditions that can foster a positive outcome when negotiating your own sabbatical. They even say to start negotiating a sabbatical with pay, because it can happen!

  • Condition 1
    Your highly-regarded work performance and professional reputation make investing in you in this way clearly in employer’s best interest.
  • Condition 2
    Your commitment to top performance and desire to sustain that performance makes a break from work a realistic endeavor with a benefit that lives on once you return.
  • Condition 3
    Direct opportunities for other employees – direct reports, your team, colleagues, another department – to learn new skills, grow and develop while you are gone … make this more than just about “you.”
  • Condition 4
    Your workplace and/or boss values its human capital. Using levers such as “building loyalty and brand” or “strengthening engagement and productivity” make your request brim with potential.
  • Condition 5
    Your company/industry has identified key drivers of future success. If your sabbatical outcomes enhance what’s needed for the future, that’s so worth playing up.

Do you have a successful story about negotiating your own sabbatical? Let us know!



Other comments

3 Comments on "Circumstances: Negotiating a Sabbatical"

  1. Randy Nichols on Mon, 7th Sep 2009 12:29 pm 

    Great post. I will read your posts frequently. Added you to the RSS reader.

  2. Sherry on Tue, 8th Sep 2009 11:17 am 

    Yeah!!!! You never know until you try – the worst anyone can say is “No”.
    Great job Alonna!

  3. Tweets that mention Circumstances: Negotiating a Sabbatical | Briefcase to Backpack - Travel Advice for Career Breaks or Sabbaticals -- Topsy.com on Tue, 8th Sep 2009 11:22 am 

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Empire of Three. Empire of Three said: RT @ottsworld You never know until you try -how to ask your employer for a career break or sabbatical by @CareerBreakHQs http://bit.ly/b2iFx [...]

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