I’m still in the process of exploring Russia but I thought I would fill you all in on one important detail that so far I’ve omitted. Yes, I’ve covered my budget, my itinerary, and my packing list. But, I haven’t explained how I’ve managed to get out of showing up for my full time job for the next six months or so. I’ll give you a hint – I didn’t quit.
So whats the deal?
I’m actually on a leave of absence (or LOA as the cool kids are calling it). What’s a leave of absence? It’s basically just a period of time where I don’t work and I don’t get paid but which will end at a predefined time. At that point I will start working again and start getting paid again (hopefully…).
But let’s back up a little.
Leaving work was one of the most stressful aspects of planning this entire trip. Even as we were in the initial steps of planning, the knowledge that I had to do something about my job loomed over me like a dark shadow. I worried about ti all the time.
Travel blog after travel blog told the tale of quitting there jobs. Telling their bosses where to stick it and setting off to see the world.
But I liked my job. And I wanted to come back to it. But I also really felt like this trip was something I needed to do.
Stres. Stress. Stress.
I felt like asking for an LOA was asking too much. Surely they would turn me down. Surely they would think I was crazy. To add to my concern – I had literally just started my job a few months before. I had spent months searching for the perfect job and had finally just found one that was perfect. And now I wanted to leave.
It seemed crazy to me also.
After many sleepless nights and many rehearsed conversations in the shower I finally decided that quitting wasn’t an option. The only option was to ask for and hope for an LOA.
But how? Here are my tips if you are planning something similar:
- Be honest about your reasons
Its important to be clear that you don’t dislike your job and explain that your LOA has nothing to do with a desire to leave the company. For me, I felt that this trip was something that I needed to do at this point in my life. I fully intend and want to return to work after this period of time, but I really hoped that I could both take this trip and retain my position at the company.
- Work with someone you trust
Telling your company that you hope to take a LOA isn’t going to be easy. Trust me, I felt like an idiot. What helped is that I spoke with a manager who I trusted and felt comfortable. Luckily for me, that person was able to intercede on my behalf to upper management and made the entire process a lot easier. There is nothing wrong with speaking to the higher ups by yourself, and for me that was an option. However, I was already very nervous and felt more comfortable having some help.
- Don’t be an awful employee
This is sort of general advice that should always be followed. Obviously, you should always try to be the best employee you can be. However, when you are planning an LOA you should make sure you continue to work as hard as possible This is no time to slack off. Remember – you want to make sure the company wants you back as much as you want to return.
- Give plenty of notice
Two weeks is the standard time people give when they plan on quitting, but its not really enough time for most companies to back fill their employees. If you plan to take a LOA its smart to give as much notice as possible. It gives everyone plenty of time to make plans and figure out the best course of action. In my case I gave months, not weeks, of notice. This was beneficial not only to the company but to me as well. It gave me a chance to work out all the details of benefits, vacation and transitioning.
Obviously, I was very lucky that my company was wonderful enough to work with me to allow me to take this LOA. One thing I should point out is that as nervous as I was about asking for the LOA, I had a feeling based on my company’s culture that they would be supportive. In some places that might not be the case – be thoughtful about what you think the likely outcome of your conversation might be and be prepared with a back up plan in case you are denied.