On Sunday I got a Facebook message from a friend in Abu Dhabi, asking if I’d written a story about when it’s OK to take a sabbatical from work, “especially when you are in your mid-40s (like me).” This friend, a former journalist, has a high-paying job in corporate communications. But, she wrote, “Desperately want out for six months–but I am terrified I won’t get another job at the end of it. I am curious to know how people who take a half ‘gap’ year at this time of life are viewed.”
It may seem like a strange time to write a story on quitting your job. With unemployment stuck north of 9% and hiring sluggish, why would you walk away from a good salary and benefits? One consequence of the dim hiring picture is that many workers have stayed in jobs they don’t like, fearing they won’t find work if they leave.
In an effort to answer my friend’s question, I checked in with one of my best career sources, Eileen Wolkstein, a longtime coach in New York City. I also interviewed a woman I’ll call Karen, who left her job as a high-powered lawyer at the end of July because she wanted to take time to look for a new position.
The bottom line: It takes courage, planning, soul-searching and financial resources, but it can be totally worth it to resign and take some time for yourself. You will find work again, if you engage in a serious search that involves diligent networking and careful follow-up.