I was lucky enough to get 12 months unpaid leave from my job for our Silk Road trip in 2016. But I’m not the only one! More and more workplaces are allowing their employees a sabbatical or a career break to travel long term. Here are a few tips on how to convince your boss it’s a top idea.
1. Be good at your job
Your boss won’t give you 12 months off if you’re not worth keeping – it’s that simple. Put in the hard yards and get yourself noticed for the right reasons. Make yourself indispensable. Your employer has invested time and money into your development, so show them they shouldn’t let it go to waste. For a company to allow you to take a career break it needs to work for them as well.
2. Be honest
You don’t have to tell your boss every travel idea that pops into your head, but you also shouldn’t make empty promises. Don’t offer to take the lead on a major project if you are planning to ask for a career break during the same period – it’s not a good look.
3. Read your workplace policies
Every workplace usually has an unpaid leave policy. While they may not be intended to cover sabbaticals, it will at least give you an idea of the criteria your boss will look at when making their decision. It’s also handy to know your rights regarding leave.
There is likely to be a formal approval procedure you need to follow to get your leave sorted. Once you have broken the news to your boss get onto any paperwork quickly while it is still at the front of their mind and follow the correct procedure.
4. Pick your timing
Give you boss as much notice of your intended departure date as possible. This will give them a better chance of making alternate arrangements. Consider whether finishing up at a certain time of the year might be helpful for your employer (for example, the end of financial year). Be willing to compromise. This could increase your chances of getting the answer you’re looking for.
Also, don’t ask your boss for a sabbatical or career break when they have just had a day from hell or they are super busy. Wait until they have a relatively quiet moment, and perhaps even make an appointment in their diary.
5. Explain why
Think about why you want this break from work to travel, and explain this to your boss. It will help them to understand your motives, and hopefully show that you’re not leaving simply due to a lack of commitment to your job. Have you always wanted to travel? Are you planning to volunteer or learn another language? Do you think this trip will help develop life skills that you can apply to work? Or is life simply too short? Be clear about why you are going and what you want.
6. Be thankful!
If your boss approves your leave, make sure you say thanks. It can be easy to forget that your travel adventure is probably a gigantic pain in the ass for your workplace, and they have done you a huge favour. Shout them a coffee or a beer at least.
And if they say no? Well, then you can obviously consider resigning. If you quit, don’t burn your bridges. You might be rehired or need a reference when you return!
Need more tips on preparing for your career break? Click here!