Posted on: November 13, 2023 Posted by: Comments: 0

We just had a money snapshot from a lawyer on a career break, and we’ve discussed how to indicate a sabbatical on your resume — but I don’t think we’ve ever had a fun open thread on whether or not you would take a mid-career sabbatical! So let’s discuss: would you take a planned break? How long would you ideally take, and what would you do?

Hat tip to the readers, who had a great threadjack along these lines several months ago… here was the original question that kickstarted the discussion:

Anyone ever consider (or actually take) a mid-career sabbatical? I am so burned out from work I’ve been fantasizing about it more than usual lately. In my ideal world I’d take a year off, sell my house and travel in the camper van I’m converting. I am thoroughly into the idea that you shouldn’t wait until retirement to do the things you want to do, and really like the concept of taking a mini-retirement during my working years. Anyone else care to fantasize with me? What would you do if you took time off from work?

Different Types of Sabbaticals

Some jobs allow sabbaticals and even encourage them — certainly academia but a number of readers noted that their law firms allowed this also. Note that even if it’s allowed or encouraged at your workplace, sabbaticals are unpaid — so obviously you need to have enough in savings to cushion you during those months.

Another way people take career breaks is as a long pause between jobs. One reader noted that she was planning one so she could travel to see friends and family:

I am tentatively planning on doing this next year but for 2-3 months. I have elementary-age kids and a partner with a flexible schedule. Our plan is to travel to see lots of friends and family we haven’t seen in years/have never visited and be able to spend real time with them and explore the areas we will visit. I am calling it a sabbatical but really it is a gift to myself after a natural ending point for one job and a respite before I look for/start another. I hope I can actually follow through with the plan!

Can You Take a Career Break or Sabbatical if You’re In a Big Job?

We heard from a number of readers with “big jobs” — Big 4, MBB, and even a small law firm — who noted that they were either planning or had taken a career break or sabbatical.

Another reader noted that she had quit her stressful job and was taking her time to find a new job (and, I’m sure, destress and reflect). She was filling her time with fun things:

I quit my job at a Big 4 back in March and I’m slowly taking my time to find a new job. I’ve been spending time on big house projects, visiting family, taking daytime fitness classes that normally do not fit in my schedule, and volunteering. I recently turned 50 and diligently saved for the past 25 years so I could afford to take this time.

Another woman at a stressful job was planning a sabbatical:

Oh my gosh yes. Do it. I’m a young partner at a law firm (small firm) and am tentatively planning a 4- week sabbatical next year. I have flexibility and no issue meeting billable par, but I know my firm will freak, at the same time, I want to do it before my retiring partner actually retires and while my main associate is between maternity leaves.

My dream for a year would be living on a pretty small budget and planning it could take another 6 months to re-enter. I’d probably do a monthly lunch with key contacts for at least 3-6 months at the end to try to make re-entry less painful. I’d absolutely try to take a leave of absence from my job if it was allowed. I’m single no kids so health insurance isn’t crazy expensive but I’d still want to make sure I understood coverage in all the places I’d travel. I can barely imagine a year but I think I would:
– stay home for a month straight. (I get you’re selling but I just crave time at home)
– see my relatives. One surviving grandparent, my retired aunt, etc.
– read so so many books.
– take walks. Get into a doable, consistent workout routine. Take classes at weird times that are smaller sized.
– take up a hobby with my hands for my long term mental health.
– volunteer for something that is way more time consuming than I can usually handle.
– learn to cook. Host inexpensive casual gatherings with a couple close friends every month or so.
– re evaluate whether I want to try to start a part time online business or consulting gig 4-5 months in.
– travel – safe, cheap, but I’d want to plan it after my first month because I just wouldn’t have time to savor anticipation on my way out to start the sabbatical. My pay depends on my work product so I couldn’t phone it in on the way out.

Still another reader from a “big job” chimed in about her experience when she left MBB in her early thirties:

I took about a year off, spent 2 months at a meditation retreat, learned how to kiteboard and did several other bucket list outdoor adventures, including a through hike. It was all pre husband and kids, but a decade later, we’re trying to do something similar with the whole fam.

Would a Mid-Career Sabbatical Stress You Out Too Much?

Still other readers noted that a mid-career sabbatical would stress them out too much, especially if they were just taking a career break after quitting their job. One reader noted that a sabbatical “feels like a “pipe dream. I get the midlife and midcareer burnout, believe me.”

Another reader shared her tips on what to do instead of a career break:

…I can’t imagine wanting the stress that comes with getting a job, house, etc., again. The key is figuring out how to create balance in your own life. For me, that’s really understanding that my job isn’t my value in this world, it’s what I do to live the life I want and my employer’s stresses are not mine to take home.

Stock photo via Stencil.

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