Will sabbaticals hurt your career?
Many friends and family over the years have suggested sabbaticals would harm our career, especially a pattern of taking sabbatical every five to seven years. They viewed them as potential black marks on resumes, gaps in employment that would cause employers to view us as unemployable. I suppose at some point an employer might look unfavorably on our well-documented and well-publicized plans to periodically leave the workforce, but we haven’t met that employer yet, working for small private companies and large public companies along the way.
If an employer did object to the lifestyle, I might overcome the objection by reminding the employer that most employees (at least in our IT industry) only hang around about three years before changing jobs. I might even suggest to the employer that since I’m on a five to seven year plan to get to my next sabbatical, they might expect me to stick it out longer than the average three-year employee tenure, as job hopping isn’t as appealing if one already has a timetable for exit. Also, I might suggest I’ll hustle harder for them because I have definite life goals to achieve.
In practice, neither my wife nor I have experienced any serious downside in our careers due to our sabbaticals. In fact, I’ve personally experienced the opposite. Sabbaticals have benefited my career, steepening my trajectory to greater levels of success.
The overall benefit has been due to the fact that the Adventure Possible life model forces career acceleration, change, and disruption. During the periods when I’m employed, the planned sabbatical causes me to recognize that my current job and position are temporary. Knowing that there is an end to my current role enables me to accept change, to take bolder risks, and to accelerate results as time is limited. I no longer fear the possibility of change, even if the change is happening outside of my control, for I consciously acknowledge the inevitability of change. Not only will major change happen, but I’m planning to make major change happen if it doesn’t naturally occur.
Accepting and not fearing change in my career has increased my courage to do what’s right for me, for colleagues, and for clients. That courage and willingness to act causes me to stand out among colleagues who may resist change, and the behavior has presented upside far greater than a sabbatical might cause downside.