It was the best career move I ever made. Ten years ago I took time off from my job as a marketing vice president at a major Wall Street firm. The corporate culture of constantly being “on” during back-to-back meetings was particularly exhausting for me as an introvert. I wrote a story for the New York Times about how I transformed my career by taking what Rita Foley calls a “reboot break” in her new book, Reboot Your Life. After some serious snooze time, I chose a new career path – as a business communication coach – that enabled me to engage in activities, like deep conversations and problem solving with one client at a time, that were better suited for my personality.
Foley shares in her book, which she wrote with her “sabbatical sisters” Catherine Allen, Nancy Bearg, and Jaye Smith – executives with diverse career paths – that more and more organizations are enabling their employees to take sabbaticals. In 2009, 19 of the Fortune “100 Best Companies to Work For” offered sabbaticals to eligible employees.
In the case of Silicon Valley giant Intel, the sabbatical sisters say: “More than 69,000 employees have taken time off to date. Everyone in the firm is eligible after seven years, regardless of level. It is a two-month program to which employees may add four weeks’ vacation time, so many end up with three months off. While people are on sabbatical, their colleagues take up or redistribute their work.” The book lists dozens of other organizations that offer some sort of sabbatical program including Accenture, American Express, Apple, Charles Schwab, eBay, FedEx, Genentech, Patagonia, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Procter & Gamble, Shearman & Sterling, and the US Navy.
Reboot Your Life contains interviews with more than 200 people who have benefited from hitting the pause button. One of them, shares Foley, is an introvert named Beverly, a pediatrician in her late 50s who got burnt out from her 12-hour days and late-night calls. She left her practice, took a sabbatical, earned a master’s degree in public health, took care of her ailing mother, and is now an advocate for people in the healthcare system.
“A reboot break affords you the time to reacquaint yourself with who you really are and what you value,’ says Foley. “It provides a fresh perspective, allowing you to return to your life and your career a more innovative and creative person. It’s giving yourself the gift of time.”
Reboot Your Life covers how to plan for and fund your sabbatical, manage your time during your break, determine your next steps, and deflect naysayers once you break the news of your forthcoming time out. It even tells you how to manage “sabbatical robbers” – don’t be surprised by friends and family who try bid for your newfound “free time.”
The book has a section titled “The Unexpected Sabbatical: Learning to Love Your Layoff” which addresses the emotional and financial aspects of a forced career break. “The best solution might be to take a short time out,” advise the sabbatical sisters. “You probably have been working since you were 21 or younger. If you build in a few months to reassess and figure out what to do before you start looking, you may be more likely to end up in a job you find rewarding.”
I found this insight from the book particularly important for introverts: “Remember the wise Japanese saying that you need to take 15 percent of your energy for yourself in whatever you do. If you run yourself dry, you will not have the reserves necessary to do what you need to do.” Nice. If 15 percent sounds measly for you, ask yourself how much of your energy you currently dedicate to nourishing yourself. Before the meter on my quiet time got close to sounding an alarm, I knew – with the encouragement of an executive coach I secretly hired – it was time for my sabbatical.
To clear up some misconceptions about reboot breaks, the sabbatical sisters say that they’re not just for middle- and upper-income people, they don’t have to bankrupt your savings, and they can revitalize your career – even during uncertain economic times. Foley extolls the virtues of stepping off the treadmill of our “do, do, do society” to discover, she says, “the pure benefit of doing nothing.”
Catherine Allen, Nancy Bearg, Rita Foley, and Jaye Smith, Reboot Your Life: Energize Your Career and Life by Taking a Break, Beaufort Books, Kindle Edition, 2011, pp. 11, 18, 54, 67, 144.
Copyright © 2011 Nancy Ancowitz