In Praise of the Non-Academic Sabbatical
As I frequently cross between business, art and academic worlds, I notice one major advantage for people in academia—the sabbatical. For professors seeking tenure, the promise of a period, from months to a year, of paid time away from routine work appeals to their inner visionary. If you wonder what more you could do beyond the boundaries of the everyday, you might consider creative ways of incorporating the non-academic sabbatical into your own career.
The concept is simple—just as the Sabbath is every seventh day, the scholarly sabbatical is anticipated every seven years. The idea is that one would take months to a year, depending upon the institution, away from teaching, either to travel or complete a major project. The gains brought by sabbatical leave cannot be ignored—the countless books penned, courses developed, service projects completed and research performed by professors who spend time away from their teaching responsibilities while involved in the serious pursuit to further their field of study.
A survey of sabbatical year projects reveals a system with applications and reporting. It’s a far cry from a practice encouraging mere idleness, though perhaps a few programs may offer no-strings sabbatical leave. Far from the boondoggle it appears to be, a sabbatical is an enriching, fruitful period to make achievements that would be difficult to manage otherwise.
So what are those of us outside the academy, green with envy for this career-development time, to do? For those of us who don’t have the benefit of a sanctioned workplace sabbatical leave program, I suggest the DIY sabbatical.
- Consider the micro-sabbatical. If development is your focus, regularly schedule time to perform “research and development” activities that inform and improve your work, even if they do not contribute directly to a project. Ready for a big goal? Assemble a committee of peers and mentors to keep you on track for accomplishing it. Use small amounts of time to accelerate you toward your goals.
- Have more latitude in your schedule? Consider developing or contributing to a program with a nonprofit organization that works in a field strategically aligned with your primary area of focus. For example, an artist might partner with a nonprofit to writing a grant for a special, time-bound project educating the nonprofit’s target audience. Much mutual benefit can come from such a curated partnership, and a long term relationship can lead to other opportunities.
- Would your employer consider a special arrangement for sabbatical leave? Investigate options, appeal to management, and use your review as an opportunity to demonstrate how your targeted extra-vocational work will benefit the organization.
- Can you delegate? If you’re an entrepreneur, consider committing a portion of your time to a particularly visionary project, while replacing some of your day-to-day efforts with a temporary replacement, such as an operations manager.
I hope these ideas spark an opportunity for your own DIY sabbatical!