Social Enterprise

Preparing to take a personal leave of absence

Have you ever had to leave your position for an extended period of time? If so, how did you manage to do it and how did you prepare? Here are my thoughts about my own personal leave of absence.

Have you ever had to leave your position for an extended period of time? If so, how did you manage to do it and how did you prepare? Here are my thoughts about my own personal leave of absence.

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The extended leave of absence I'm about to take is possible only because I'm currently, shall I say, between career opportunities. I've not talked about it yet in any of my blog pieces, but I was a casualty in a pretty severe business downturn earlier in the year, and I was one of many in a rather significant round of layoffs. I had been with that company for almost 18 years, and I saw it coming even a year or more ago.

The company went through a change in ownership several years back, it went from a high of about three dozen employees to about one dozen this year, and the company dynamics were drastically changing. It soon became obvious that my days with the company were numbered. Over the past year or so, I don't think a day went by when I didn't think about leaving, and earlier this year, it became just a matter of which would happen first — a layoff or a resignation. They were extremely surprised that I took the news so well, but I actually felt that a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders, and I left thinking only about the opportunities available to me.

I left that company permanently, but I did it in a way that others might if they were planning on returning after an extended absence. The company had contacted an outside firm to provide contract computer support services, and I went to pretty great lengths to make the transition a smooth one. I made sure everything was documented and properly filed, and when the outside support tech showed up on the afternoon of my last day, I spent quite a bit of time showing him the system, explaining the back-up procedures that were in place, going over the software licenses, and reviewing the documentation I had on the computers and network. He, too, seemed rather surprised that I was so accommodating, almost as though I was coming back and he was just a temporary caretaker.

Since I left that company, I've been providing various support services for any number of people and companies on a consulting basis, and, of course, I've continued to write my blog pieces for TechRepublic. But this does afford me the time to take what I'm calling an extended personal leave of absence, and I won't be around the blogs or discussions for a month or more. A couple of prewritten blog pieces, however, will be posted in my absence.

Taking an extended amount of time off is probably something many think about doing, but few can manage to pull off. In my case, I intentionally delayed pursuing any other permanent employment opportunities because this was something I've wanted to do for a long time. I'm taking it as a chance to gather my thoughts, consider which career option I actually want to pursue, think about life and family, and actually exercise and refresh both my mind and body.

I only hope that I don't kill myself in the process, however, because I'm doing it over the 500-mile length of the Colorado Trail, which runs from Denver, through the Rocky Mountains, over the Continental Divide, and ends in the Southwest Colorado town of Durango — one of my absolute favorite places. If I do manage to hike the entire length, which is probably one of the biggest personal challenges I've ever faced, it will take me somewhere between four and six weeks.

One of the blog pieces that will be posted in my absence will discuss what kind of technology I'm taking with me on my 500-mile hike through the mountain wilderness. I know, some people will think I'm crazy to take any technology with me, but in this case, it might make some sense.

Anyway, share your own experiences and thoughts about taking an extended amount of time off — either away from your permanent job or, as in my case, between them. How have you managed to pull it off? I'll look forward to reading about them when I return sometime in September.

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