Sabbaticals are Scary, but Good

I got published in the Toronto Star’s Business op-ed section! The article talks about how most young people don’t get enough time to make truly informed career decisions and how a sabbatical can be an effective tool to get better career clarity.

This is the first time I’ve written an op-ed for a legitimate media organization and it was cool to see it come to fruition.

I am a very strong proponent of sabbaticals.

At the time you have to pick a university program, you’ve seen such a small sliver of the world. The majority of your views are likely just views you inherited from your parents or adopted from your surroundings. It takes an insane amount of self-awareness and perceptiveness to know what you want to do coming out of high school.

It took me several years of working, recalibrating my values, and meeting people from different industries to know what I wanted to do with my life. But finding joy from your work is one of the most liberating and amazing feelings there is – it really is worth the effort and time it takes to get to that point.

My Sabbatical

In 2019, I took a sabbatical after doing four years in finance. I didn’t have a clear plan of what I wanted to do (which is partially why I kickstarted this blog).

I actually remember the VPs and principals at my private equity firm earnestly wondering what I was going to do after I left. They wanted to make sure I had a good plan after private equity; in hindsight, they were really lovely people.

All I knew at that point is that I was completely burned out. I missed my girlfriend like crazy and I knew I didn’t have the grit to climb the ladder in finance.

It was the sabbatical and the unstructured free time that came with it that really helped me recalibrate my life. I know it’s an immense privilege to take time off, but I am so grateful for those months where I took time for myself. I spoke with people in different fields (e-commerce, search funds, long-only funds, digital content), ramped up energy on music production, and traveled for a few months.

Of course it’s scary to not have a job. I don’t really have a solution for the uneasiness and fear you have to deal with. You’re probably going to worry about money at some point during your sabbatical because that’s what rational people do. I rudely cut my travel plans short because my bank account was getting clapped and I was starting to feel uneasy about my finances.

Sabbatical Planning

I think if you want to do a sabbatical, you should have the following:

  • Rough timeline
    • I’d say 3 months is a good start. You’re probably going to spend the first month shaking off burnout and doing nothing productive anyways. It’s also pretty easy to explain a 3 month gap on your resume.
  • Clear things you want to try or explore
    • Unstructured free time is one of the most precious things there is. Enjoy yourself, but be a good steward of your time off. Know what areas you want to explore, who you want to talk to, what classes / books to try.
  • A backup plan
    • You might find that you hate freedom and you just want to work a 9-5 without having to do all the self-actualization work. I’ve met a few people who said they hated time off or felt they didn’t have the self-discipline to capitalize on it. You should probably try to leave your job on good terms and understand what your most reasonable employment alternatives are. I again think 3 months is short enough where no one will even blink though.
  • A reasonable budget
    • Life can be unpredictable. Don’t be foolish and quit right before your bonus or after you sign up for a gargantuan mortgage. Understand your burn rate and what expenses can be shut off. I do think that if you live in North America, you can go sabbatical in a different part of the world to lower your expenses.

I didn’t have this view before because I was cynical, but everyone deserves to not hate their job.

It might be too high of an expectation to like your job coming out of of school, but c’mon, by the time you’re 30, you should be getting it right, right?

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