Katherine Ullman spent part of her sabbatical in Colombia.
Courtesy: Katherine Ullman
Katherine Ullman burned out of her hard work during the Covid-19 pandemic and questioned her next career move.
A two-month vacation at work was exactly what she needed to reconsider her life. In December, Ullman, 33, who lives in San Francisco, traveled to Mexico to practice yoga and also to Colombia, where she took a hike and took an online drawing course.
“There were talks about changing roles,” Ullman said of her work. “I was trying to figure it out, I want to do it?
“I wanted to do it here?” she added. “Or, should I think otherwise?
“All these factors came together and that led me to really feel I needed space.”
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Ullman’s consulting firm had a policy that applied to her during her vacation. However, not everyone is so lucky. Some may be allowed to take unpaid leave. Others may quit their jobs instead. In fact, Ullman did so shortly after returning to work in late January.
“In fact, I haven’t decided yet what I plan to do,” she said. “Then I came back and it was clear.”
Ullman now has his second sabatical, this unpaid. Fortunately, he has saved money to pay the bills.
What is certain is that sabbatics are not a common employee benefit. Before the pandemic, only 5% of organizations offered a paid sabbatical program, while 11% offered it unpaid, according to the Human Resources Management Company. 2019 Benefits Report.
Still, there is something else between a one- or two-week vacation and a few months off, said DJ DiDonna, who studies sabbaticals and is the founder of a research and advocacy non-profit organization. Sabbatical project.
“Very rarely do you get a chance to step back and say, ‘What am I doing? How do I approach life? What do I want my life to be like? Did I get out of the way?'” He said.
While experts hope that more employers will develop sabbatical policies in response to the Great Resignation, the wave of pandemic abandonment, which is also known as a big change, there are ways to move forward without a specific policy.
Whether you want to ask your employer for an extended vacation or just leave work for a while, here’s what the experts say.
How to approach an employer
Katherine Ullman took an online drawing course when she was at the Sabbatical in Colombia.
Before you go ask your boss on sabatical, do your research. See what benefits a company can offer, even if it’s not exactly identified as sabbatical, said Vicki Salemi, a career specialist on the Jobs Monster website.
“There may be some areas of gray,” she said. “There may be an opportunity to explore.”
Even if you don’t see anything in your benefits that would allow you to extend your time off, talk to your boss. This conversation should ideally be in person or via video or telephone, but not via email or other message, Salemi said.
When you meet, you know exactly what you want – the number of weeks off and when you want it to start. Have an idea of how your work would be handled during your absence, Salemi advised.
After submitting the request, proceed. Check with human resources or any other action taken during the meeting. Start a chain of emails, take note of what has been discussed, and ask other questions, she said.
If the answer is no, consider your options.
“This is an opportunity to stop and look at the big picture and see if this company is really right for you,” Salemi said.
Mohit Bhasin did a lot of kitesurfing during his sabbatical.
Courtesy: Mohit Bhasin
For 35-year-old Mohito Bhasin, the best option was to quit, even though his employer, Google, had an unpaid vacation policy.
“It was an opportunity to come up with another thing in some open space that was created,” said Bhasin, who left in February 2020. “I thought I could always go back to Google, which I didn’t want. rely on.”
Bhasin, who spent his free time in India with his family and kiteboarding in beach destinations like Mexico, saved enough money to make a living for at least a year without income. He also had no mortgage and could easily reduce spending when he moved from the San Francisco Bay Area.
You should definitely be financially prepared to leave work, even if it is a shorter period between jobs.
First, create a budget and check your cash reserves to see if you can stay without income for a while, he said. Winnie Sun, co-founder and CEO of Sun Group Wealth Partners, based in Irvine, California.
“I like to advise our clients to have a home equity credit facility set up at home (if they have equity) before they leave work / paycheck, to have a game plan for how to make a living during the break (without having to tap the retirement plan ) and have a sufficient income saved plus an emergency fund ready before leaving work, even if it is only temporary, ”she said.
Also, make sure you have health insurance during your vacation.
You may also want to consider consulting or working part-time during your sabatical period. This is what Bhasin did, who started writing projects about five months after his spare time.
“A good way to find out what the next thing you want to do is take your skills and help other people,” he said. “That could spark some ideas.”
Ten months after quitting, Bhasin returned to work as a data scientist for a technology startup. He moved back to California last summer, but still travels for kiteboarding as his work is remote and has flexible working hours.
“I learned what I like,” Bhasin said of his spare time.
“When I lived in the Bay Area, I had no idea that teleworking could be like this,” he added. “I had no idea you could find such a balance.”
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Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors Acorns.