Ten Reasons Why Your Family Shouldn’t Take a Year Off: Reason #4 “What about your career?”

Pulling up your family’s suburban roots and heading off for some developing country for a year is foolish. There are lots of reasons not to do it. For example: What about your career?

This is a really, really good question. Even with the economy on life support and people moving from job to job at a much quicker rate than ever before, employers still tend to look askance at a one year hole in your resume. Not only are you losing a year of income, but when you return, it often takes quite a few months to find a job. At the executive level – and given the current economy -- this might mean as much as two years without work. This is arguably the biggest obstacle to enjoying an extended sabbatical with your family.

There are, however, a few different ways of looking at this.

First of all, as a consultant in the very cyclical retail industry during the worst economy in a half century, there’s a chance that there may not be much work anyway in the next 12-24 months. If I were to go half the year with no income, we’d be worse off financially than if we rented out the house and traveled the world…in fact, we’d actually lose less money. This alone is pretty compelling. An additional benefit of being a consultant is that clients are used to the idea of an uneven work history due to the project-related nature of the profession.

Secondly, in the past 4-5 years, I’ve had a burgeoning desire to work in the non-profit sector and do something a bit more meaningful than just drive shareholder wealth for retail companies. What better time to offer my pro-bono consulting services than during the worst economy in decades?

Thirdly, by working pro-bono, I am…working. I am doing actual work, helping an organization and adding to my professional skills and experiences. This is something that many of my out-of-work colleagues aren’t able to say. Additionally, in the internet age, it is much easier to keep in touch with my professional contact network via email and social networking sites like LinkedIn. With LinkedIn, a kind of Facebook for executives, it's possible to proactively manage the perception of my career to the people in my professional network. The people in my network don’t need to know that I am not getting paid; all they need to know is that I’m on an assignment with another client.

Lastly, when will we ever have a chance again to do this?

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