A career break isn't just for the lucky few. In the second part of this four-part series, Ros Walford looks at the finer details to help you make it happen.
Deciding whether to take a career break is the hardest part. After that, all you need to do is plan. There is a lot to think about, but give yourself enough time, break the logistical tasks down into sizeable chunks and before you know it you’ll be waving goodbye to your colleagues and letting the adventure begin.
How to afford it
Before you do anything, do your maths. Can you afford it? How long could you realistically be out of work for? Think about how you could receive an income. Unless you have huge savings or a grant, you will need to find work for at least a few months or find a way to live very cheaply to eke out your savings. Or perhaps you don’t mind going into debt if you know that you have a well-paid job to go back to.
In an ideal world, you’ll own a property that you can rent out to cover the mortgage and provide some travelling money. Be sure to set aside some savings in a separate bank account to cover unexpected house costs. If you don’t have someone trustworthy to look after your property while you’re away, consider paying an estate agent to manage your flat. Although they charge hefty fees of upwards of 15% of the rental value for a full service, it may be a price worth paying.
If you don’t have rental income, don’t let it stop you. You could save more before you go, plan to work for longer whilst away, and/or consider cheaper destinations. You’ll also be free to roam without worries about tenants or leaky pipes.
How to convince the boss
If you are confident about your finances, waste no time in asking your company for leave of absence. Not all companies offer a sabbatical scheme and those that do usually state that any offer is at the discretion of management. A courteous approach would be to email your immediate boss to arrange a meeting during which you can put forward your case. If they agree in principle, they will probably ask you to submit a formal application.
It will help your case if you can justify a period away and highlight how it could potentially benefit your company. Describe how the experience could directly improve your professional skills. For example, teaching or community volunteer work could increase your confidence at public-speaking and people management. When travelling, you would have to learn to get along with people from all backgrounds and cultures, which could improve your teamwork. Learning a language would enable you to communicate directly with colleagues based in other parts of the world.
Understand the terms and conditions
You will receive a formal offer of leave or a rejection letter. Before accepting an offer, it is important to find out the terms and conditions offered by your company. Companies will normally only consider applications if the employee has worked there for a specified number of years. It’s rare that companies will offer paid leave and they will probably grant a time-limited period, usually anything up to one year, and expect you to return to work on an agreed date. Benefits, such as pensions, and bonus schemes will probably cease for the duration but your continuous service should still accrue. It’s possible for companies to make you redundant while you’re away and you should be able to opt to resign if you wish, giving the usual notice period.
If you are happy with the terms and conditions, agree dates and sign on the dotted line. That’s it – you’re going!
Planning your travels
If you’ve got to this point, the hard part is over. It’s all fun and excitement from here on out – although while dreaming of your next destination, don’t forget to do some of the travel essentials. Book your flights early to save money, investigate visa requirements (check the Foreign Office website for entry requirements and safety advice), and arrange vaccinations necessary.
If renting out your home, you may need to store your lifetime of belongings somewhere else. There are different types of storage, and storage in a secure warehouse unit is more expensive. The advantage is that it’s accessible to a nominated person while you’re away. Crates or shipping containers are a cheaper option but they are sealed shut until you collect.
Finally, you have to think about packing. Take only the essentials and don’t underestimate how much technology can help you on your trip – whether it’s emailing home or using the GPS to help find your hotel. Use these packing tips to help you decide what to take, and learn a few of these travel hacks to make your journey that much smoother.
Once you’re fully prepared, there’s nothing left but to organise your farewell party and let the sabbatical countdown begin.
For more information, also see:
Sabbaticals: why take a career break? >
Sabbaticals: the options >
Sabbaticals: testimonials >
For more help on planning your trip, use the Rough Guide to First-Time Around the World.