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MENTOR - CAREER CLINIC

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Question...
Question

I have been working in local government for the past 15 years, the last five in a very demanding senior role and feel I am approaching burn out. I have been toying with the idea of taking a sabbatical (travelling around the world) for a well-earned rest and to find a new perspective. How can I approach this matter with my boss, who isn't at all keen on releasing staff, even for training and development opportunities?

Answer

Five years' of constant pressure in a senior local government role can be very demanding. This question actually comes at a poignant time for me - two staff have just returned from sabbaticals, and one of my senior staff is about to go back to university for a year - so I have some direct experience to draw on.

Firstly, you are right to point out the benefits of a sabbatical. Some time out to recharge your batteries is a good and healthy thing - recognising the need for a break is a talent that a lot of individuals are lacking. Bringing in new ideas and experiences is essential to team and service development. It is worth spending time - as with any learning experience - considering how to make the most of such ideas.

Now the tougher bit - how would a sabbatical work? Take the opportunity to think about the implications for your team. If you can work with them now to develop any missing skills in advance, your boss may be less worried about letting you go.

Have you found out if your authority has a policy on sabbaticals? Ask HR what custom and practice there is where you are - this could potentially be an equalities issue.

To be honest I would have a good think about your position - is a break really what you want? Is this the job you want to come back to? Think about what it is you would like to change. Try looking at interim management, freelance or consultancy work - a new challenge. Good luck, and bon voyage.

Martin Horton

Director, Improvement & Development Agency

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