Sabbatical: Why You Should Consider Taking One
After graduating from college in 2011, I had worked non-stop, never taking more than one week off for vacation. Despite being in my "prime," I felt tired, restless and frustrated. Although I had only been working for 6 years, the inspiration and excitement that I used to feel about my career had faded away. I was totally disconnected from my larger purpose in life.
So I made a tough decision - to take time off. To give myself the time and space to return to a world of exploring what is important to me. Since May, I have been engaged in several projects without holding a "full-time job." I started my sabbatical by immersing myself in Ramadan, a month of fasting and reflection for Muslims around the world. I got a chance to re-charge my spiritual batteries in a way that I never had as an adult.
Next, I began working at the Price Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at UCLA Anderson to be a social impact consultant for pioneers in the education and healthcare industry. In this role, I worked with professionals from Head Start and community health organizations to support capacity building projects. While working with these talented leaders, I got re-connected back to the work that means to the most to me.
Most importantly, I have used this time to rest. I have read books(!), reconnected with old friends, made new friends, and spent quality time with my husband. After such a long time, I feel centered, confident, and certain about what I want to do next.
The last leg of my sabbatical is an internship at the United Nations Development Program in Istanbul. I will spend 7 weeks working with the Sustainable Development Goal Philanthropy Platform, which was the kind of dream job I wanted when I graduated from college. Six years out of college, I finally remember what is is that I want to do when I grow up.
The biggest gift you can give yourself is time. This sabbatical is the best professional decision I have made so far. Too often, we shut out feelings of exhaustion and depression to continue to get through our day to day tasks. In the short-term, this may not seem like a big deal. But, in the long-term, this suppression can result in a major negative impact on your performance and on your mental health. You should not be shy about asking your employer for time to regain perspective, to re-charge your batteries, to rekindle the passion for your larger purpose. While it may be asking for time off, what you're really asking for is permission to invest in yourself to become a more impactful and thoughtful contributor.