Q After many years in local authority social work, in children’s services and mental health, I find myself longing for a break. I would love to take unpaid leave, and having recently inherited some money, can afford to. I’ve considered studying or voluntary work, or maybe just having a rest (although I’d probably get bored). How can I take a break and still keep my career on track?
A Tempting isn’t it? Check whether your employer has a sabbatical leave scheme and what conditions are attached. But before you jump, think carefully about what you want to do on your return. Bear in mind that time out often changes ideas and expectations, so be prepared for this. If a change of direction is your objective then choose sabbatical activities which might help with this. Do some research with relevant organisations to establish what skills and knowledge are needed for any change you may have in mind.
However if you are confident you will return to your present field, plan activities which add to your portfolio of skills and knowledge in this area. If you choose a course of study, your training manager may be able to advise you.
Whatever you do, keeping in touch is essential in view of the major changes many services are currently going through. It is important not to miss out on developments while you are away. Before you go, time your departure to make sure you catch important training events first.
While you are away:
*Get a colleague to keep in touch by e-mail or phone. Even if you are volunteering overseas it should still be possible to keep in contact electronically.
*Use the internet and relevant press to keep up with national changes.
*If feasible, arrange a quarterly meeting with your manager to get updates on changes in your organisation.
*Arrange an appraisal before you return to plan re-induction and learning needs in advance.
Pauline Moignard is a freelance HR consultant specialising in social care