Who hasn’t dreamed of taking a sabbatical leave? Whether or not you love your job, taking a break from work can be an amazing opportunity to refresh and spend some time reflecting on your career trajectory. This time can also be used to travel to faraway places and work on new skills.
Asking for and executing a sabbatical takes a lot planning (and a little faith in the unknown). If you are planning to stay with your company, “having the talk” in such a way that won’t jeopardize your standing at work usually requires a strategy. Most workplaces do not yet have a standardized program for sabbatical leave, so expect to be navigating new territory with them.
Proper planning also helps assure that you’ll have enough money to thrive during your time away from work. While everyone’s employer relationship and financial situation is different, there is a blueprint you can follow to help guide you towards a successful transition to sabbatical leave. For more on how to take a sabbatical, including how to speak to your employer, budget, save, and make the most of your time, read on.
Asking to Take Your Sabbatical
Talking to your work about a potential sabbatical leave can be one of the most harrowing parts of the entire process. First, plan to have the conversation with as much advance notice as possible. If you’re planning to stay with your company, it’s important that you highlight the reasons why it’s a good idea for them—not just for you.
Avoid saying that you’re burnt out and instead list out the positive benefits to the business. Reasons could include: learning a new skill or language, making connections at home or abroad, or conducting independent research on behalf of your job. It can be a nerve-racking conversation, but just remember that you’re not the first person to ask, and the worst they can say is “no.”
In general, employers grant a sabbatical to employees who provide value. In the time leading up to the conversation, consider creating a niche for yourself at work if you haven’t already; this could be learning a skill no one else knows or even just being more of a joy to work with.
During the conversation, it’s a smart idea to point out some of these value-adds while offering to train a person to cover your duties while you’re away. Alternatively, provide a plan for how your work will be managed leading up to your departure and while you’re out on leave. That way, your employer will know you’re committed to a seamless transition and could be more likely to green light your leave.
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Planning Your Sabbatical
Once you’ve spoken to work about whether a sabbatical is a possibility, it’s time to put concrete dates in the calendar and map out your sabbatical. Keep an open mind as you investigate different options, such as travel or educational programs. Spend some time thinking about what you want to accomplish, and how it could improve your life and career.
You’ll also need to spend some time on the logistical aspects of leaving work. For example, you’ll probably need to figure out what you’ll do for health insurance. Will your insurance from work cover you while you’re out on leave?
Will you need to stock up on certain medications if you plan to travel abroad? Another element of leaving town that you’ll likely want to consider is what you’ll do with your living situation. An option for long-term travelers is to sublet your space to someone who needs a furnished home.
How to Save for Your Sabbatical
When you’re mapping out your goals for your sabbatical, try to put a price on these goals. For example, if you want to spend some time backpacking in southeast Asia, look up flight and travel costs, investigate accommodation costs and daily budgets, and make a list of everything you’ll need to buy prior to take-off.
You may want to include travel insurance, if necessary, and remember to budget for small emergencies. If you have a family, you’ll want to consider how your absence of work may impact their financial needs.
Once you’ve determined approximately how much money you’ll need for your sabbatical, it’s a good idea to calculate how much you may need to save each month until your sabbatical begins. For example, say you want $8,000 for your sabbatical in six months.
You have $5,000 already saved and need to save $3,000 more. That means you’ll need to save $500 in each of the next six months to hit your goal. Is this realistic? Take a look at your current budget, and then set a realistic savings goal.
To save up money for a sabbatical, you may want to look for bigger ways to cut costs. This might mean moving to a more affordable place or taking on a roommate, shopping for cheaper car insurance, cutting cable, or eliminating eating out at restaurants.
If cutting costs won’t be enough, you can see if there is a way to pick up extra responsibilities and overtime hours at work. Or, consider picking up a side gig on the weekends. Babysitting, dog walking, and renting out a room in your house are all common side hustles.
One of the best ways to help reach your savings goals is to open up a separate savings account that’s specifically designated for sabbatical money. Not only can it help you be less inclined to spend the money as you save, but you may also get inspired as you see your stash grow.
When you open up a separate savings account, consider doing so with one that offers higher interest. In general, higher-interest accounts offer more bang for your buck than keeping your money in a traditional savings account.
Some newer checking and savings accounts offer easier access to your money.
If you’re unable to save enough prior to your sabbatical, but don’t want to miss out on the opportunity, there are other options available to you, such as taking out a personal loan. A personal loan can supply the funds you need now so you can start your trip sooner than later.
If you do decide to borrow for your sabbatical, look for a low-interest personal loan so you don’t end up paying back too much more than you originally took out. Another feature to keep in mind is prepayment penalties.
Some lenders actually charge you for paying back the loan early. Finding a personal loan with an interest rate that makes sense for you—plus no prepayment penalty—to help keep the repayment more reasonable for your budget and income.
Starting Your Sabbatical Leave
You’ve been approved for your sabbatical and are saving money; what else can you do to prepare? Before taking a break from work, it’s a good idea to update your résumé, otherwise, you might forget important accolades, skills, or projects you’ve worked on. While you’re at it, double-check that your LinkedIn profile is up to date. If you’re leaving your job, this is an especially good idea—you’ll be so happy you took the time.
Make a plan for each day that you’re gone on sabbatical. Think about big goals in terms of how many hours each will require to accomplish in full and build a schedule. This may seem like overkill, but if it’s your first experience away from the structure of work, you might find the freedom difficult to manage. And while the freedom to build one’s own schedule is part of the joy of taking a sabbatical, you also don’t want the lack of a plan to hinder you.
Last and most importantly, feel confident in your decision. We live in a cultural environment where stepping away from work makes us feel guilty or unproductive or both, but this really shouldn’t be the case.
Every person deserves to spend some time exploring both the world and their passions free from the demands of a nine-to-five. There’s a good chance you’ll look back on your time away as some of the most productive and valuable in your life. And anyway, work isn’t going anywhere.
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