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Are You Ready for a Radical Sabbatical?


Well I'm back from a week away in rural Dorset with my 82-year-old mother and my beloved dog. It was very relaxing and lovely to spend time with both of them. My mother is one of those people who is always keen to learn and experience new things - within the limitations of her age which doesn't seem to stop her doing too much!

Reflecting on her attitude to life got me thinking about my clients and the fear that can hold them back. Fear of the unknown. Fear of making a mistake. Fear of making the wrong move.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the "R" stage of the DREAM process which is to Refine your career possibilities. We looked at how helpful it can be to truly experience a career possibility before making moves towards it; so that you can check that it will fit you like a glove.

I've recently been rereading "How to Find Fulfilling Work" by Roman Krznaric (part of the School of Life). He advocates experimenting with different careers before making any concrete decisions. This way you get to "try before you buy" to make sure that you would really and truly thrive in a chosen career.

One way of doing this is to take what Krznaric refers to as a "radical sabbatical". This involves granting yourself some dedicated time to explore career possibilities via job shadowing or volunteering in organisations which you find appealing. He tells the story of Laura van Bouchout, a Belgian woman in her late twenties, who couldn't quite settle on a career. She decided to conduct an experiment and to try out 30 different careers before her 30th birthday.

She got a part-time job to pay the bills and then used the rest of her time to contact people who she thought had dream jobs or interesting careers and then asked to follow them or work with them for at least three days. The list of careers she tried out included a fashion photographer, a bed-and-breakfast review writer, a creative director at an advertising agency, an owner of a cat hotel, a member of the European parliament, a director of a recycling centre and a manager of a youth hostel.

She likened the experience to dating inasmuch as you might meet a potential partner that ticks all your boxes but there's no spark or, conversely, someone that doesn't fit the bill on paper but sweeps you off your feet. Thus by trying out these different careers, you can see which one creates that spark.

This experimentation is really helpful in reducing some of the fear about making a misstep. Krznaric advocates continually conducting such experiments throughout your career, even when you are happy in your work.

What to do now

If you have a list of career possibilities you'd like to explore, why not spend some of your leisure time work shadowing or volunteering in that area? Tap into your network and see what ideas for a radical sabbatical you can come up with. This new service https://www.bravestarts.com/ might be able to help pair you up with someone you'd like to work shadow.

As for me, writing this email has reminded me of a job I was coveting some years ago. It is the job of Features Editor of Country Walking magazine because she seems to always be going on amazing long distance walks and then gets to write about them and also gets paid for it. I have her contact details and am minded to connect with her to find out more. That's a career possibility for my future self! I'll let you know how I get on...

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