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.

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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