Career Strategies: Can You Negotiate a Job Sabbatical Now?

job sabbatical

As the economy appears to improve, people who have burned out — some to a crisp — are asking how to negotiate some time off, a.k.a. a job sabbatical.  I have a client who is a fortysomething and in HR.  He’s had a challenging past three years.  However, despite three reorganizations and a merger he’s been promoted twice and upped his salary 60 percent.  How ungrateful of him to want some time off!  (Not really.)

What he wants is to spend six months working for his favorite not-for-profit followed by six months of doing nothing.  His concern is how this would affect his job hunting prospects a year from now.  If he positions the hole in his resume properly, with a stint of unpaid public service, it won’t be a problem.  Your company might consider giving you the time off if you pay your health insurance and pension contribution.  Are you willing to commit to returning to your current employer?  Technically, that would be a sabbatical.

If you are looking for the exit from your present job and the time off as transition, that strategy works — provided you position this to your next prospective employer as a one-time event.   Perhaps college professors can expect a year off every seven years but most people can’t.  The rule:  Anything you can explain logically is a neutral during your next job hunt.

Taking a sabbatical is more a financial  than a career decision.   In the current climate it’s unlikely you’ll be dissed for your choice.  Keep samples of your work.  It’s harder to be negative about someone who shows  excellent results in any arena.  In the current climate of long-term unemployment, with so many people who’ve stopped looking for work, you need a compelling reason why your contribution to a cause or charity was much more important than staying in a job you’d done successfully.

Keep track of what you learn as a full-time volunteer.  This is an opportunity to test ideas that would work in your next corporate job.  Interviewers are going to ask what you will do differently.  Develop your narrative about what you did and why you did it.

PS:  Please don’t think the office politics in a not-for-profit will be better than in a corporation.  It will be infinitely worse because people are bashing each other for a good cause, not filthy money.  There are no limits to zeal, only limits to what you can do in the name of profit.

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