Posts Tagged ‘sabbatical’

The Art of Negotiating a Sabbatical: How to Quit Your Job Temporarily
Thursday, November 7th, 2013

In the midst of the economic meltdown of 2009, my career was at a standstill.  I worked as a recruiter at an IT management consulting firm and as expected, hiring wasn’t exactly at an all-time high.  I had taken on other projects in order to supplement my workload but I felt an existential crisis was looming.  Simply put, this was not how I had envisioned myself upon graduating five years earlier.

Around this time, and perhaps fortuitously, our HR leader sent a message to all consultants that encouraged them to take career breaks of up to six weeks.  Personally I thought this was a fine idea; instead of decimating the workforce due to declining revenue, our leadership decided to cut costs through a practical program that would appear attractive to its staff and more importantly, benefit the business at large.

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I should highlight that the communication wasn’t actually directed at me because I’m not a consultant, though I have learned over the years that it is far more difficult for management to tell you “no” when someone else already has heard “yes.”  So I sat down with a pen and paper and began to list my achievements from the prior five years.  I had advanced considerably since being hired as a post-college grad, and intended to illustrate that when I finally conjured up the courage to broach this so-called “break” with my manager.  I also realized how significant it was to repeatedly reinforce that I was not quitting, but instead sought to undergo a physical and mental recharge while evaluating the direction of my career.

I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t at least somewhat apprehensive.  Would my manager view this as a lack of dedication to her team?  Would I have a position upon my return?  If not, how would I sustain myself, and more importantly, how would prospective employers view my decision at a time when the unemployment rate was approaching a twenty-five year high?  But I collected myself and repeated what I tell my candidates whenever they ask for more money – the worst someone can tell you is “no.”

Once I had a convincing case, I scheduled a meeting with my manager at a time when I knew I would have her full attention.  I started by expressly stating that I had no intention to part ways with the firm – I had worked with some amazing talent over those five years and felt as though it was an organization in which I could grow for years to come. I delineated my accomplishments, underscoring that my previous production level had been quite high and most recently, I had to take on additional responsibilities to reach a forty-hour workweek.  Then I dropped the bomb – I’d like to take off for a few months.  There was likely a bit of stammering on my behalf so I immediately launched into how this extended holiday would potentially benefit the business.

First and foremost, the leave would be unpaid; at a time when all companies were keen on cutting costs, this was paramount. Second, while I hoped that my role would be available upon return, I acknowledged that it was solely up to my employer as to whether or not I would have a position at the end of this leave.  I found this to be particularly important because when making a request, I believe that others appreciate if you recognize the risk involved, especially when you’re the one who has initiated it.  Ultimately, the discussion transpired over no more than 15 minutes; my manager was receptive to my reasoning and said that while we needed further approvals, I had her undivided support.

As I mentioned, six weeks had been prescribed but I knew that I’d require more time for the travel I had in mind.   I decided a more diplomatic approach would work best so I asked my manager for her input – How much time could I take without negatively impacting the team and others’ workloads?  Fortunately that wasn’t a dilemma in 2009, but not everyone requests time off during a recession.  In that case, I’d recommend raising the discussion sufficiently in advance, e.g. if it’s September, ask if you can leave in January, or perhaps opt for a time of year when business is slower than usual.  The project I’d been working on was slated to go-live in early January; I made sure my departure date coincided seamlessly with the portion for which I was responsible.

In the end, I was granted four months and I spent three of them traveling throughout Southeast Asia and Japan.  I’ll refrain from the trite testimonials – “It was the best experience of my life” (it was) or “I’m incredibly grateful for having the opportunity” (indescribably so).  What I can tell you is that upon my return, my position was indeed eliminated.  Instead, I was offered a role within our Executive Recruiting group, arguably a better position than my previous role, and where I still am today.  Six months following the break, I was asked to travel to India to train our Offshore team on various recruiting methods.  I’m certain my penchant for travel played an integral part in the invitation.

I realize that some consider the notion of a career break as completely frivolous, but I also think it’s telling that a quarter of the companies on CNN’s list of America’s best firms not only offer sabbaticals, but paid ones at that.  Employers are growing increasingly aware that people sometimes need time off and a ten-day jaunt to Costa Rica won’t always suffice.  This obviously isn’t a dialogue to have within the first six months of your tenure, but if you’re confident of your merit and feel like you could use some time to revitalize, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to open the floodgates and have the conversation.  At worst, the request will be denied.  If not, however, there are few endeavors in life as gratifying as quitting your job temporarily.

Paul Fusco is an avid traveler who works as an Executive Recruiter at an international management consulting firm in Manhattan.  He took his first career break in early 2010 and recently achieved a personal objective of visiting thirty countries by the age of thirty, celebrating in both Israel and Jordan.  In his spare time Paul writes, maps out future destinations, and enjoys New York City for all it has to offer.

Not All Who Wander Are Lost
Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

In 2008, my then-boyfriend George and I took a year-long sabbatical. In the first month of that trip, we went to the Nomads Hostel in Auckland, New Zealand. The tagline of the hostel was “Nomads: Not all who wander are Lost!” I took a deep breath and thought, “maybe, I will survive this adventure.” Although I had traveled extensively prior to meeting George online, I had never done so with so little pre-planning. Years of traveling while working on a cruise ship meant I only ever unpacked once. I did not carry my things around and wonder where I would lay my head and, as George told me during our travels together, there would be no chocolate on my pillow!

I did adjust to wandering and wondering and not minding (well nearly not minding) on the two nights when we did not have a place to stay. Surviving one of my greatest fears (of having nowhere to stay) along with being ill in Indonesia at New Years made me realize I was handling all the sabbatical year could dish out.

Getting engaged underwater in Thailand on our two year anniversary was a highlight of our trip and one of the main reasons we returned to Los Angeles was to get married! While we were home, we also were selected to be the hosts for the 2011 Meet, Plan, Go! nationwide event, where we met so many wonderful travelers and new friends.

During our three years in Los Angeles, we always remembered the feeling of our first night back when we contemplated our return. I asked George that night, “how did we get here?” He replied, “we got on the wrong plane.”

In July 2012, we corrected our “mistake,” and got on a flight to Bali for the beginning of sabbatical year number two. I wish I could Skype with myself back in 2008 and share how life has changed. Before our first trip, I was unsure if our relationship would endure the trials of being on the road and together 24/7. Now I know that it thrives on all this time together. Recently, George and I celebrated our third wedding anniversary in Fort Cochin, India on December 19, 2012. We had talked about going to India and Myanmar on our trip in 2009 but did not make it to either place then but both were priorities for year #2.

Having another career break has been great for our relationship and for our website! When we traveled in 2008-9, I sent a newsletter once a month. I had left behind many former students who wanted to know where we were and what was happening in which countries. I was surprised at the responses. People seemed genuinely interested in our voyage and what we were learning on the road.

In 2010, I started a blog on Blogger and wrote every Sunday. Several “helpful” people shared how writing only once a week, I would never get anywhere. I explained, “since I am nowhere now, it hardly makes a difference.” About a year later, we added a weekly website and in March 2012 made the leap to WordPress and publishing nearly every day.

During all of my travels and teaching, I have always written in a journal and written letters but now I also write articles that get published. 2012 has been the year of media for me with an appearance on National Television, a photo shoot for a National Magazine and a recent article in National Geographic! I loved it when my bio for National Geographic Intelligent Traveler called me a “Travel Writer.”

For our next project, we are hosting a travel writing contest on our site. This competition is free to enter and offers cash prizes and a raffle with travel literature from incredible published authors. Our theme is Inspiration: A Place You Love. We’re accepting submissions through February 14 – all the details are available here.

Lisa Niver Rajna is spending the year in Asia with her husband (both of whom are members of the Traveler’s Century Club and Huffington Post Bloggers). Follow their adventures at wesaidgotravel.com, on Twitter @wesaidgotravel and their Facebook page.

How to Account for a Career Break on Your Resume
Monday, April 16th, 2012

You arrive home at the end of a life-changing travel experience and one of the biggest questions facing you likely will be how to find work again. Whether you traveled as part of a career break, gap year, or sabbatical, you will need to figure out how to best represent the time and experiences on your resume.

Where should it go on my resume?

It depends. Do you think the experiences you had traveling apply to you finding a new job in your field?  If so, then place it in the main part of your resume. If you don’t feel like it applies, then it probably belongs in a section reserved for Additional Information or Hobbies.

Kristin Zibell of Takeyourbigtrip.com is a frequent career breaker and she keeps her resume flexible saying,

I found the recruiters and hiring managers were looking for the professional story in my resume. Every statement on my resume needed to support this story and show a situation, action, and results.  If my travels and experiences had a direct relationship to the position, like my blogging or volunteering abroad, then I listed it like a position. Most of the time, I found that travel was an interesting fact about me and explained the time gaps, but not directly related to the positions. In this case, I placed my travel experiences at the bottom in an ‘Additional Activities’ section that colored who I was and what I had done.

Kristin’s resume highlights her travels as international experience:

♦ Ten months of travel to India, Nepal, Southeast Asia, Middle East, and Europe from October 2008 to May 2010.

♦ Activities included volunteer work at Mother Teresa Mission Charities in Kolkata with disabled women and teaching English to street children in Jaipur.

♦ Designed and authored three travel blogs during multi-month these solo trips. Currently editor of Takeyourbigtrip.com.

What type of information should I share about my travels?

It’s probably NOT a good idea to put that you were a beach bum for 12 months, or that you traveled the full moon party circuit. Instead, think about what you did on your travels that had to do with education, skill building, volunteering, and business skills and highlight them in a professional manner. But there are some other skills you might want to consider:

Volunteering
One should always represent any volunteering done while traveling on their resume. It demonstrates a commitment to education, giving back to other cultures, and global experience. You should always include where your volunteering took place, what your responsibilities were, and if there was any end result. The end results could be tangible things such as building a house, cleaning up after a natural disaster, or restoring wetlands.

If not covered somewhere else in your resume, also consider including any resume building intangible results such as improved leadership skills, proven ability to take initiative, as well as listening and communication skills. Finally, if your volunteering was for an extended period of time such as 6 months to a year, then consider putting this experience in your work or education history.

Working
More and more people are working while they travel. Work that is relevant to your field is important to highlight. Did you do any freelance work, consulting, working at a hostel, or teaching ESL?  If so, this can belong in your work history.

Meet, Plan, Go! co-founder Sherry Ott highlighted her various work experiences as international work experience:

ESL Instructor: ILA Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City

♦  Teaching adults English as a Second Language (ESL).

Consultant:  CAMENAE, Singapore

♦  Delivered a usability analysis of the e-commerce site and led subsequent redesign.
♦  Conducted tests and created a regression test plan.
♦  Consult with owners on their business vision and ensure that it can be supported on the site.  Offer guidance on short and long term business plans and their technical implementation.

Blogging
Did you blog, write for publications, or do photography; all of these things illustrate that you took your travels seriously. Think about the new skills you learned when maintaining your blog. Did you increase your knowledge about Search Engine Optimization, marketing/sales of affiliate programs, coding, and social media tools?

Laura Keller did a career break with her husband Ryan and blogged about it at www.roundwego.com. She represented her blogging in the following way:

Digital Entrepreneur, Travel Blogger & World Explorer

♦ Expanded economic and cultural views while exploring 20 countries in 14 months of extensive travel across six continents
♦ Created, launched and hosted the travel website RoundWeGo.com, attracting 10,000 unique monthly visitors
♦ Governed online traffic, social media and SEO to create advertising and sponsorship revenue for RoundWeGo.com
♦ Contributed travel articles to leading lifestyle and travel Web sites and blogs

Talking about the soft skills

Even if all you did was lounge around a beach all day and drink beer, you picked up some business skills while traveling around the world.  It’s hard to think about the mundane day-to-day experiences as skill building, but they are. There are a lot of business skills you can learn without actually having gone to business school. In fact, these “business skills” are simply important life skills that can give you an edge:

♦ Negotiation skills – All that time spent in markets haggling over the cost of a magnet was beneficial.  You were exposed to and employed various negotiation tactics that can be highlighted. Businesses want people who are sharp negotiators and can make deals not people who are push overs.
Budgeting and Planning – You most likely had to plan and save for your career break.  In addition, you continue to monitor your budget and assess any financial risks.
Adaptability – When you travel, things go wrong, plans change, there are mudslides that you can’t predict.  As a traveler you are forced to change plans constantly.  You handle the issues that are hurdled your way quickly after a few months on the road. In the ever changing world of business, the ability to adapt is important.
Communication  – When trying to converse in foreign cultures every verbal and non-verbal communication is necessary to overcome language and cultural barriers. This skill is helps you deal with people which is an important aspect of any job. Workers with good communication skills are the ones who rise fast.

All of these new skills belong on your resume. And when you are asked about them in an interview, you’ll be able to share an amazing story about “that time in Vietnam…” when a skill came in handy and how it can help you in your job.

Bottom Line

Use your travel to make you stand out. Keep in mind that many of these experiences, if described in a professional manner, will make you stand out from other candidates.

Don’t hide your travel when searching for a job; embrace it!

 

Career Break Guide Table of Contents

Meet Plan Go