Quitting Time (No not the trip!)

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

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2 Responses to Quitting Time (No not the trip!)

  1. memographer says:

    “Obviously, I was very lucky that my company was wonderful enough to work with me to allow me to take this LOA.” – Can’t add any comments to your quote. Enjoy the trip and keep us updated :)

  2. Sylvain says:

    Yes, that’s sound advice. Many companies offer LOA up to one year.

    But that all depends on a series of criteria… including your seniority, your actual position, if you have a back-up, etc. LOA was allowed in my company, but it was mostly available for positions where they had hundreds of employees doing the same thing, more or less (I worked for a company with over 40,000 employees).

    Although long absences are frequent here because of parental leaves (up to a year, after a child’s birth), LOA can be tricky sometimes because it’s treated on a voluntary basis.

    I know in my position, it wouldn’t have been possible to get a LOA, since I already had a hard time to get an occasional back-up for my vacations, which I often had to bump down the road. The one time I had to leave for a few months for medical reasons (and gave a full month notice then) it was a real mess upon my return… and impacted the paychecks of thousands of employees (I was programming the compensation). I was let go and it was the best thing that could have happened in my scenario.

    Some companies also have another form of LOA, where you can work for 4 years and get 80% of your paycheck then you get a year off… and are still paid 80% of your salary during that time. That also depends of your position. That’s the ideal scenario for someone wanting to travel for a year.

    No matter what company you work for, begin by asking around to old colleagues what they would do… perhaps they know an old way around that wasn’t used recently. Then contact your superior or the human resources to explore options.

    In your discussions, build a case on how your travelling will also make you a better employee upon your return, how it could benefit the company as well. The case is relatively easy to do if you’re involved in some form of customer service.. since you’ll be exposed to different cultures and languages during the trip.

    Although it’s probable you’ll want to grow off your job when you return, and assume other responsibilities (even if it’s just in terms of project management skills), assume (and reassure your boss) that you’ll return in your current position and that you expect to be at least as happy (and productive) then as you are now. That’s the less-impact scenario for the company… so the most cost-effective.

    If you’re not in good terms with your supervisor, such request for a LOA could backfire. Beyond the denial, he could think you’re making too much money if you can afford to do such trip… not thinking it’s a matter of choice and priority, or by sheer jealousy. That could come to bite you back. If you don’t have a good supervisor, think about other ways around.

    I’m planning to leave for at least two years, hopefully never coming back. I will keep in a separate account enough money to help me live for at least 3 months in case I need to end my trip for whatever reason. This return money is considered in my planning, but not in my travel money. If down the road I decide to stay somewhere in the world, I could always get my hands on that money to help settle down since I can contact my bank’s representative by email (I already do).

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