Always a risk
Of course, not all employers will be open to the idea of a gap year – but there are ways to make it more appealing to them, according to Holly Bull, president of Princeton, New Jersey-based gap year consultancy Center for Interim Programs, LLC. “Lay out what [you have] in mind to an employer and see how much time away they might agree to if there is a clear commitment to return to the job,” she said in an email. “Enrol the employer by outlining the benefits of taking this kind of time; most people are reinvigorated by gap time and return with more to offer in their jobs.”
Bull recommends being very clear about what is most important, and only then going to your employer with your intent and requests. “See what happens,” she said. “I think one has to be ready to let a job go if an employer is not at all open to the gap option.”
But don’t be surprised if there is pushback about the idea. “Many employers are not so keen to see someone take off for a year because of the need for business continuity and consistency,” said Reboot Partners’ Smith. Have a plan showing how they could cover you in your absence. One of Smith’s clients pointed out to their manager how much money they could save in the budget for that year by not having to pay their salary, yet not sacrificing the investment they had made in training them over the years. “It was a win-win for the company and the employee taking the break,” said Smith.
Time to move on
The year off may prove the stepping stone to your next job. “I think it's really important people ask the question about whether their work is fulfilling. If it's not, it may be scary to make a change, but it's invariably better to risk it to find something that really does light them up,” said Bull. “Gap options provide landing pads and a way to test the waters without making a full commitment to another job.”