Career Trends: How much time off should you take between jobs?

5 min read

Edition: November 24th, 2021
Curated by the Knowledge Team of ICS Career GPS

Some time off allows you to re-evaluate and reset the course of your career and life for the better. (Image Credit: iStock)
  • Excerpts from article by Rebecca Zucker, published on Harvard Business Review

Changing jobs is an ideal opportunity to take time off, and we all know that having sufficient down time is instrumental in starting any new work refreshed and recharged. In an ideal world, we would take sabbaticals in between jobs, which can be particularly helpful in the case of burnout.

A sabbatical is not focused job-search time, but mostly downtime, devoted to creative and personal pursuits (which may include some career exploration) and can be anywhere from a month to a year.

This extended time off allows you to re-evaluate and reset the course of your career and life for the better. If you already feel rested and are ready to get started, you may need less time off. A hiring manager will often gladly pay more if that is what will clinch the deal for you to start ASAP and make their life easier that much sooner.

However, if you are looking to take a real break before plunging into a new job, here are several factors to consider:

1. Assess the business needs of your new employer

  • Keep in mind that the organisation is hiring you because they have a clear and present need.
  • It absolutely needs to start with the business needs.
  • The company may have a specific milestone it wants to achieve with your help.
  • The company may have a lot going on and may, therefore, want you to be there as soon as possible.
  • Even if that’s the case, do request for at least two weeks off between jobs to “catch a breath.”

2. Give appropriate notice to your current organisation

  • Another consideration if you are going to a new job directly from a current employer is being able to give ample notice and smoothly transition projects to your colleagues.
  • You want to make sure to “end well,” preserving both the goodwill and relationships you’ve built.
  • Many people prefer to err on the side of caution and not give formal notice to their current employer until their background check has cleared, and this can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.
  • Don’t commit to a specific start date before your background check goes through and the offer is official.
  • Speak in terms of number of weeks versus a calendar date. Otherwise, if the background check takes longer than anticipated, it will eat into your time off.

3. Keep in mind your financial obligations

  • Personal or family financial needs are also relevant in determining how much time you take off before starting your new job.
  • If you’ve been unemployed for an extended period or have material financial obligations, a few weeks’ additional salary from a new job may matter a lot to you.
  • If it’s near the end of the year, you’ll likely want to stay at your current employer until you receive your bonus or vesting of equity, unless your new employer is willing to make up for this loss.
  • Likewise, you’ll want to ask your new employer from which date you will be eligible for a bonus, retirement benefits, health benefits, etc.
  • These dates may provide a significant financial incentive to start earlier.

4. Factor in your personal requirements

  • You may also need time off to take care of important things you’ve been putting off.
  • If your new job requires a significant move, such as cross-country or even overseas, this will require some additional time.
  • Ask for the time you need for these types of priorities.

5. Include time to decompress

  • Perhaps, most important is having sufficient time to relax and recharge so that you are ready to start your new job refreshed and energised. 
  • Get a few weeks off to transition your brain by taking time away – on a trip or at home. Create some distance from your usual worries and responsibilities and recharge yourself.
  • Barring any specific time-sensitive business imperative, don’t be afraid to ask for time for a real break.
  • This opportunity may not come again for several years.

6. Consider how much prep time you’ll want

  • You may want to budget some time before you start to ramp up. This includes things like reading relevant documents, scheduling meetings for your first week with your boss, key stakeholders and direct reports, confirming the details of your introduction to the team or company, and completing HR paperwork ahead of your start date so you can dive right into your new responsibilities.
  • Overall, the consensus is that one month is the peak of the bell curve in terms of how much time to request.
  • If you can’t get the break you want, try and negotiate more time off later.

The important thing is to ask for what you need and to have an open conversation about the trade-offs. This discussion — like any negotiation — will be indicative of your relationship going forward with the company.

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the above mentioned article are those of the author(s). They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of ICS Career GPS or its staff.)

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