To ask for a sabbatical, a concept that’s novel to employers and employees alike in this country, lies somewhere on a scale of an audacious inquiry to downright professional suicide.
Turns out, though, that both luck and research are on your side. Multiple studies have shown that a sabbatical actually helps both parties involved—so all’s not lost!
Maybe you want to travel, learn a new language, volunteer somewhere or just grow as a person in a way you deem best. Whatever your reason, if you’re convinced that you need or deserve a break from work, here’s how you should go about it.
Do Your Research
Firstly, understand that this is not, and cannot, be an “impromptu getaway”. This is a legitimate, long period of absence from work—so planning every detail right down to a T is imperative.
29-year-old Sumitra Bishwakarma successfully took a month-long sabbatical earlier this year. “There are a few things I had to plan in advance,” she says. “The first was the length of my sabbatical. When would I take it and how long would it be? The second were the arrangements—most importantly, financial arrangements. I would not be paid for my sabbatical period, but I still have to take care of my monthly expenses like rent and bills.”
Sumitra, who pursued a summer course in a foreign language in Europe, says she had to budget the travel cost and living expenses along with the tuition fee.
These are the questions you’ll have to answer both at work and when applying for your necessary visas and permits, so be sure to have the answers ready in your mind and documented in a file!
Set a Goal
If you walk into your manager’s cabin and say it’s “hashtag wanderlust”, there won’t be a need to ask for a sabbatical because you probably won’t have a job anymore!
Jokes aside, remember, this is your sabbatical and, if approved, you’ll only get an opportunity like this once or maybe twice in your life. So make sure you do something that could potentially change your life for the better—which, of course, will help sell the idea to your employer too!
Sell Your Goal Well
For Goa-based Jocy Fernandez, a 32-year-old operations manager who took a two-month long sabbatical recently, the main hurdle was that the concept is not as mainstream or openly accepted as it is in the academic realm. “So, it was more about changing that mindset and perspective, while also convincing them with rationality on why it was important for me as an individual,” he says.
Start off by speaking to a senior who you directly work with and trust. “I had a face-to-face, casual discussion with my immediate manager at first,” he continues. “Having done that, I followed up with an official email, giving them enough notice for a contingency in my absence.”
So the trick is to explain how the sabbatical will potentially help you gain a new skill set or rejuvenate you in a manner that will help you serve the company better.
The solution? “Communication and enough notice,” says Jocy. “By laying down the pros and cons and having an open discussion about it, I was able to get that sabbatical without rocking the boat.”
Be Confident and Go the Extra Mile
There are many reasons why your request could be shot down—so be prepared to face some tough questions and rebuttals.
For starters, the company might not have a sabbatical policy to begin with. Secondly, even if your manager or boss is convinced, they might hesitate to grant the sabbatical out of the fear of setting a precedent. Or well, maybe it’s a small organisation and they’re afraid about managing work in your absence.
This is where you’ll have to be tenacious. Nothing will be sorted out in the first meeting, so remember, persistence will get you places—literally, in this case.
Speak to the HR, a mentor or anyone who can help you, and be relentless. Back your claims with proof, answer all the queries with tangible data, work harder and longer to prove your worth as a valuable employee and chances are that you might get your way.
Have you ever successfully taken a sabbatical? Share your ideas and stories with us below!
Image Credit: Nikhil Mudaliar