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 Hi Manager Tools Community!

My wife and I are planning a 'round the world trip (RTW) and have some questions on how to at least minimize effects on, and quite possibly enhance, our careers after our return! We would like your advice on a few topics, primarily around how to ask work for a leave of absence effectively, and (later) in the case that my company and I cannot find a way to make that work, how to come back and continue my career in other ways.

So now that I gave the BLUF, let me say a few things to put this into context:

  • My wife and I just got married, we do not have children, pets, a mortgage, a car (I have a company vehicle), and we are even month-to-month on our rent.
  • We are 28 and 29 currently, both in stable jobs that pay us well.
  • My wife has been looking at a career change for some time.
  • Based on the typical career path most take in my company, I would need to move from the city I currently live in to take the next step.  This promotion would likely take place next year if I choose to pursue it.
  • We are in a good position financially to take on this trip, and will return with at least a year's worth of reserve, we are very good with our budgets!

My first question is about how to ask my current employer for a leave of absence.  What should be my considerations when doing this?  I plan to bring it up in conjunction with the next steps in my career.  Something to the effect of:

A few weeks ago, you mentioned that I should start considering the next steps at [my company], I think this is a good time to discuss this as [my wife] and I are looking for a way to do some travel before we have kids and start to settle down.  Would you help me find a way to make this work that would still be advantageous to [my company]?  A sabbatical or leave of absence would be my top choice. I really wish to stay with [my company] and I think the timing is right to discuss all these topics.  What are your thoughts and how can we work together on this?"

I want to keep my posts concise so you all do not get overwhelmed with all the ideas and questions bouncing around in my head about this topic! Please let me know your thoughts and advice, and if there are any other pieces of information that may help.

Thank you!

donm's picture

Why not wait until you're given the promotion/move and do the trip at that time? You'll be leaving one job and starting another. Wouldn't it make sense to take additional time off at that time, as the impact should be minimal?

acao162's picture

What kind of time will you want to take off?  A month?  A quarter?  A year?  These are very different conversations.  A month off, it could work to take the trip between your current job and a promotion, though I wouldn't.  I would be too keyed up to start the new challenge to take a month off first.

 

From the employer perspective:  for a long term employee, with excellent prospects and plenty of goodwill, I can make a case for a 3-4 month leave of absence.  I can probably even rearrange the work schedules to accomodate so we don't need to hire a replacement.  Anything longer, I'm looking at recruitment costs, training and major upheaval.  I would need to know how your travel desires mesh with the company's goals.

For a longer leave of absence, you run a couple of risks - 1.  That I like your replacement better and you lose the promotion track  2.  That I deny your request, you resign and I invite you to re-apply when you return from the travel. 

The truth is, I personally would love to do what you are thinking (except I have all the ties - kids, house, car etc) and my own petty jealousy of your option may cloud my thinking. In the grand scheme of things, what is 6 months in a lifetime?  (I say this, because your boss might feel like me)

If your company has a policy on leaves of absence, check what it allows, know what is required of you and that may give you the tools to better approach it.  For instance, educational leave may be encouraged.  Is there a way to make your travel fit?  Can you time your trip to the quietest time of year?

EffectiveTechie's picture

Thank you for the responses!  

Ideal length of time off that we are looking at is 10 months based on family weddings and when we expect to start our own family, etc.  That being said, I live in the real world, and not necessarily the 'ideal' world.  If it meant keeping my employment, we would definitely be open to adjusting this ideal down to a shorter time frame.  

I think the best way to express our mindset is to say that we are very open to finding a way to do a 'trip of a lifetime' before our lives get much busier with many responsibilities that a family brings. We feel strongly that this will make us better people, parents, and employees and we are open to being flexible to make this dream a reality.

Thank you for the employer perspective, it is extremely helpful to get some insight on how my employer may look at this.

To give some further context, I am in a sales role for a large manufacturing company.  My manager promoted me to team lead at the beginning of this year.  She has also discussed with me the need to consider next steps soon and even though she would love to keep me, she knows it will be expected that I look for the next role in the coming year or so.  She of course also wants me to grow in the company.  The next role would likely be a product manager position without MOP responsibilities.

And from your "In the grand scheme of things, what is 6 months in a lifetime?  (I say this, because your boss might feel like me)", are you suggesting this may be a reason to reconsider my trip, or support to find a way to go? I ask since I want to seek first to understand and learn where people are coming from! 

Thank you all again and I welcome any additional comments or advice on how to bring this to my employer in the best way possible, or any insight on how an employer may view this request.

Cheers!

acao162's picture

I need to edit better, the brackets should have come after the comment about petty jealousy. 

The point I was trying to make is think about it from your boss' perspective - being petty about you doing something I couldn't do (at least not today).  Essentially, think of the emotions behind the objections and is there a way for everyone to feel good about the leave?

THEN, think about it from your perspective, it's 10 months.  In Canada, we regularly take a year for maternity/paternity leave.  I'm not going to pretend it doesn't have an impact on your career - it absolutely does - but your work is not your life.  If you really want this leave time, be 100% clear what you are risking and go for it. 

And, before you ask, be the guy or gal that over delivers, performs to the highest standards, earn the relationship points so that it makes it very hard for your boss to say no.  And when you get back, dazzle 'em so they know it was exactly the right move.

jrb3's picture

Not sure what your wife's company has to say about this.  As long as one of you has a posting to come back to, you're in good shape, it sounds like.  Though if she wants to make a career change, the lead-up to a long vacation's an ideal time to wind down the old ....

One possibility you might look into:  can you (or your wife) just simply forego being in the office, and take your position with you?  Check out "The Four-Hour Work Week" by Tim Ferriss http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/ for strategies and tactics for this.  You might find you can make it a longer trip, with a paycheck coming in the entire time, and whoever's working not missing a step in career progression.

Another thought:  some large companies find it helpful to have travelers go to overseas offices.  You might be able to get some legs of your trip paid for if you courier for them, or provide training, or in some other way help bind distant parts together.  This might take lots of networking and conversations to find whether you can create some win-win situations for folks elsewhere in the hierarchy.  Perhaps there's some need for the business-development folks to get some initial contacts in client or supplier companies overseas.  Ask around ....

Another thought:  keep your eyes and mind open for possible product ideas, how folks in different markets use products, and how your company's products might be leveraged there.