Monday, August 26, 2013

Can I take a year off?

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a manual that had all of the certain answers about how to make choices in your career?  Many candidates approach me with the question of what it would mean to their career to take a year off.  Most wish there was a definitive answer…. but maybe it is good that there isn’t.

Some people want to unplug to travel, to care for a loved one who is ill, to spend time with their children, or just to rest their souls.   Some teachers get sabbaticals: paid leave every seven years to study or travel.  Not so much in fashion.   We are covered by the Family Medical Leave Act FMLA where if your situation qualifies   you can take up to 26 weeks unpaid time off to care for a family member and be guaranteed a job when you return.   Though you need to review this legislation and how your employer interprets  FMLA prior to making any decisions.

If your situation is not covered by FMLA and you want to take a year off to travel, or further your education, or pursue some passion, there are no certainties about how it will impact your career.   Here are some things to consider.  How happy are you in your current role?  Would you want to return to the same company?   In some cases it can be easier to take additional time off as part of a transition to a new employer.  On the flip side there is certainly risk involved when you leave one job without having another job lined up.  You also lose some negotiating leverage on salary when you are interviewing for new roles without coming directly from a current salary.   

Really smart employers will be flexible to retain talent that is performing.   If you have a great relationship with your current company and would want to return to them, an option would be to have a candid discussion with your boss and your HR generalist about your desire to take some time off.  Work with them on the timing so they can cover your role before you take the time off.   

I know candidates who negotiated to work part time for a year so they stayed connected but had time to devote to other priorities. 

Some candidates did this seamlessly.  For example, one fabulous designer on the West Coast wanted to take 6 months to surf all around the world.  She resigned from a company where she had worked for  6 consecutive years.  She had great success and career progression in her time there.  She gave them plenty of notice,  got references from them, and left on great terms.  She did take calls from recruiters while she traveled and stayed networked so that when she returned there were options and contacts waiting to visit with her. 

There have also been candidates who have not returned to their careers as easily as planned.  Some have taken roles with less responsibility and money, some had to job hunt for much longer than they anticipated.  In one case the candidate left the industry entirely after 2 full years of job hunting.

At the end of the day this is a personal decision that requires thought and planning.   It is extremely important to carefully weigh the risks and benefits.  Strong  business relationships and a great network of industry colleagues will greatly assist returning to a satisfying role.   I would love to hear from you if you have taken some extended time off and how it impacted your life and your career. 

No comments:

Post a Comment