How to Plan a Career Break – Approaching Your Employer

How to Plan a Career Break – Approaching Your Employer

How to Plan a Career Break – Approaching Your Employer

If you’re thinking of taking a career break to volunteer on a project abroad, congratulations!

The tricky part, in a lot of instances, is getting your employer to agree to letting you take an extended period of time off – and I’m going to help you get around this issue as best as I can.

The most important thing is to make sure you’re prepared when approaching your boss, as it’s very possible you’ll need a well thought out list of reasons as to how this benefits them, as well as you.

With that in mind, let’s get started. I’ve got all the info you need right here…


Find Out If Your Company Offers a Sabbatical Programme

how to plan a career break – approaching your employer

They do? Great! That’s one less thing to worry about. Now, if so, do you qualify to take one?

Many firms will offer sabbaticals to people who have worked there for a certain amount of time as a loyalty bonus, but others simply offer them as a more flexible way of doing business.

If they don’t, it’s not the end of the adventure for you.

You could, in fact, become the first, and set a trend within your company. If you can convince them it’s a good idea, and prove it in the long run, their attitudes towards sabbaticals may change dramatically.

Again, though, make sure you’re prepared to pitch your case.


Decide Exactly How Long You Want to Take Off

how to plan a career break – approaching your employer
Either way, choosing how long you want to spend volunteering abroad is an important decision.

Our programmes can last from as little as two weeks to as long as a whole year. I’d recommend at least three months, if you can. This will give you enough time to settle in, get to know the community and make a lasting impression.

Once you’ve decided how long you intend to be out of your job for, the next step is to choose the time of year you’d like to go.

Whether you’d like to avoid the winter chills, or extend your summer holiday in a meaningful way, try and choose dates that are not only brilliant for you, but are also less likely to affect your company’s business.

It always pays to be flexible in these circumstances. Think about when big projects are ending, or when business is usually quieter, when planning your trip.

When it comes to informing your work, and I can’t stress this enough, you have to give them plenty of time to consider it.

By giving them more time to prepare for your absence, you give yourself a better chance of being allowed to go. It should go without saying, but it has happened before, you shouldn’t spring it on your boss the week before you intend on going.

Finally, be prepared to negotiate.

No matter how good your pitch, it just might not be possible for you to take as much time as you’d planned to be away for. But if you’re well prepared, and can debate the worthiness of your case in a reasoned manner, it will give you a much better chance.


Pick Your Moment

how to plan a career break – approaching your employer

Timing, as they say, is everything.

If your boss is in a bad mood, don’t pitch the idea of taking a year off work to them. If there are clients in the room, wait until they’ve gone. If you were late this morning, don’t ask today.

There’s no such thing as a perfect moment, but you’ll want your boss to be in as good a mood as possible.


Make It Worth Their While

how to plan a career break – approaching your employer

The beauty of sustainable volunteer programmes is that they actively encourage you to use the skills you’ve developed in the workplace to help others, while also helping you to become a more rounded individual.

By putting yourself into circumstances that are vastly different to what you’re used to, you’ll develop in new and exciting ways – so make sure they know this!

Show them the Inspire website, talk about the programme you intend to go on, make sure there’s absolutely no doubt in their mind that this will benefit all parties involved.

They’ll get an employee who is invigorated, has developed new skills, and is willing to put themselves out of their comfort zone to achieve results they never would have thought possible – and they’re just some of the reasons they should agree to it!


Ensure They’re Clear You Want a Sabbatical, Not to Leave Your Job

While you state your case, it’s important that you keep reminding your boss that you will be returning to work once your sabbatical is over.

They won’t have to train anyone new, just manage workload in your absence – and when you return you’ll be raring to put your new skills to the test.

It may also be worth mentioning that it costs around £8,500 to train a new member of staff – according to – so managing without you might be in their interests, financially.


But What If They Say No?

If your company says no, and even if you follow all the steps I’ve mentioned there’s a chance they might, be prepared to fight your corner (disclaimer – I absolutely don’t mean physically!).

If they’re under no obligation to give you one, they may take more persuading, so leave it a little while, then come back with reasons they can’t say no to.

Keep going back, as you’ll be proving to them that this is something you’re set on doing, but let them know you’d rather do it with their support.


And If They Say Yes?

Amazing news! Now you can get properly excited. But first, get it in writing.

Next, get your dates locked in with HR, your line manager, and anyone else that needs to know.

We would be delighted to help you plan your trip. We’ve got loads of options for you to choose from, all of which will help you contribute in communities that need your help the most. From education in India, to healthcare in Tanzania, and loads of other worthwhile options, we’d be delighted for you to join us.

how to plan a career break – approaching your employer


Any Questions?

You can call me on +441635 285666, or contact us using the form here.

If you’ve already taken a sabbatical, share your experiences of planning with your employer in the comments below – you never know who might find it useful!

Prakriti Malhotra is the founding director of Inspire. She has over 12 years’ experience helping individuals plan their overseas volunteering trips whether it be for their gap year, a sabbatical from work or a post retirement adventure.
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