Reboot your life by taking a sabbatical

June 11, 2011

Thinking about taking a break from the working world? You’re not alone. The “Sabbatical Sisters” — Catherine Allen, Nancy Bearg, Rita Foley and Jaye Smith — advocate people give themselves the “gift of time” by taking a sabbatical in their book, “Reboot Your Life: Energize Your Career & Life by Taking a Break.”

Reuters interviewed Bearg, a national security consultant, about incorporating sabbaticals into one’s life.

Why take a sabbatical?

We think everyone needs one. There are a number of different reasons to do it. People who are stressed out from work, tired, people who need a career change. People who are nearing retirement might want to take a break to contemplate what to do in retirement.

How popular are these sabbaticals in the private sector?

They’re becoming more popular. We’ve coined the term “reboot break,” because people associate sabbaticals with academia. We say sabbaticals — reboot breaks — are for everyone.

We’ve noticed more corporations are offering sabbaticals. There are three different kinds of sabbaticals. One is a workplace sabbatical, where you leave your job and come back to it. There is the between-gigs sabbatical, where you leave your job and go to something different. Then there’s the unexpected sabbatical, where you lose your job and take some time to figure out what you want to do.

On the Fortune 100 best companies to work for, they started asking a question: Do you offer sabbaticals? Twenty-one (Fortune 100 companies) now do. We think that number will grow, because it’s a powerful way to attract talent and keep it.

What are the first steps one can take to ask for a sabbatical and negotiate for one?

One step would be to go to the human resources department and feel them out about it. Then go to the direct boss. You have to make a business case. The business case is that the company needs dedicated, resilient and motivated employees. They will get that by giving some time off.

When one person goes for a while other people have to take certain responsibilities. It deepens the company’s abilities because people have cross-trained and learned to do new things. It’s very good for team morale.

How does one financially plan for a sabbatical?

We recommend setting a budget. You have to plan and create a budget. Write down how much money you think you’ll need to maintain your ongoing financial obligations and expenses. Look for a source of funding. We advocate setting up a sabbatical account and directing money into it. If someone says what can I get you for your birthday, you can say would you mind making a donation into my sabbatical account? You can cut your expenses in the run up to the sabbatical.

There are ways to make money on your break. You can write a travel blog, be someone’s companion. You can drive someone’s car across the country and be paid for it. If you go somewhere, you can teach English as a second language.

It’s also important to have a reserve. You don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you’re down to the last penny because if the reboot break goes on longer than you expect it.

What are the misconceptions around taking sabbaticals?

One misconception is you have to be rich. Another is I could never do it. Another misconception is it’ll ruin my career, they’ll forget me.



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