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How badly would it hurt my CPA career to take a year off?

I'm a 43 year old CPA who works for a 25 person accounting firm. I'm feeling what I can only describe as a growing obsession for a sabbatical.

If I could get a leave from my current employer, where I'm not a partner, I'd take it. If not, I would just give notice. I haven't been out of work since college and generally have some fear about being unemployed for longer than I'd like after I get back. 

I could financially afford the year off. If I took longer, I'd probably have to dip into retirement savings.

At this point, I'm not really willing to relocate just to find a job. But, who knows... that could change. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area.

My plan is to sell my house and most of my possessions and see North America in an RV with my fiance.  Depending on the house sale, I may have a little more or little less savings.

My rationalization of this move career-wise is that it would help me preserve the option of continuing in my chosen field, vs risking burnout and a total unwillingness to continue my current career path. Part of me has a secret fantasy about an on the road epiphany and finding a whole new career.  

What do you think? Am I mistaking the need for a long vacation for something more? Would it hurt my career to have to explain my year (or year plus time to find a job) off?  If I can't get a leave from my current job and thus be assured of a job when I get back (if I want it), is it crazy to just up and quit? Have you ever done anything like this and what did you find out that you didn't know first?

Oh, and I'd like to get my leave of absence or give notice as soon as possible. I am not going through another tax year.

Answers

Anonymous
(Reporting Head) |

Hello, it sounds like you really want to go ahead and if this is important to you, I personally would say just go ahead. Many people arrive at a point where they would like to pursue a long awaited life goal, and it is good when they really go for it. I live in Europe and recruiters say that it is not damaging to your career to take a break of that length. In this part of the world...It might be even beneficial, I might add.
Who would hire someone that has the courage to pursue his values? I would.

There are also risks attached to your decision and you seem aware of these. It may be that your job cannot wait for you and it would take a while to find a job when you return. You probably have a better intuition or facts over where employment market is/will be.

I was asked by one person in my team to go for 2 months in Nepal and it took two executives to support such a move. He explored with us initially and when we supported his plan we went to HR and made it official. You might want to think how to approach it internally so that you might find your job back afterwards.

Good luck!

Anonymous
(Credit Manager) |

Hi, I did so and make a sabbatic which ended in 4 year by will. Let's say i got addicted to enjoy my life. I was 26, and no big responsabilities such as family.. but i was working since ended my studies and your fear crossed my mind as well. Listen to your heart, and shut up your head, too rational to take the best decision for your soul. As far as i hide in my CV such a long period, i post this annonimous because i agree with anonimous nr1. but i strongly belive that the most of RRHH guys prefer modern slaves that worked without stops since they ended university....so just in case... There are still too much old fashioned minds in the suit's world, changes are just starting, in my humble opinion.

Anonymous
(NA) |

I made a decision to take 2-3yrs off at age 42, leaving the financial industry at what was the peak of my career. Like you, I had never been "unemployed" prior. It's a decision I certainly do not regret, and many new opportunities ultimately emerged as a result. Taking time off to more effectively handle personal investments, property and family affairs is increasingly common.

Do consider that "40s" are highly productive years, both in terms of earnings, as well as pivotal career potential. Plan your departure, and prepare for re-entry. Fortifying (now) and maintaining your business network will be important in preserving options post sabbatical. Engaging with headhunters, enrolling in executive business courses and attending industry conferences are a good way to do this -- as is keeping in touch with former colleagues and customers, immediate and further back.

Keep current with developments relevant to your field, and the job market, as you approach the 6mo mark. You might even be able to do the odd 'freelance' project (www.elance.com is one site providing these options), or volunteer your services at a favourite charity.

Looking for a job from another job is no longer necessarily the best way to find a dream position. There is always a market for energised, enthused professionals, but you will need to convince some prospective employers that you are genuinely looking forward to getting back into the work place.

Bryan Fritz
Title: Taoist Finance Officer
Company: Business Consultant
LinkedIn Profile
(Taoist Finance Officer, Business Consultant) |

Do it! It does not need to be rationalized if you feel deep down that you need it.

Anonymous
(CPA) |

The most important career issue is to let your employer know ASAP if you want to return to the firm. I understand wanting to skip a tax season but as an experienced professional, your employer will have a large void to fill. You won't want to leave your employer and fellow employees scrambling. On the personal side, I recall a speech Fr. Ted Hesburgh, president on Notre Dame University, gave in the early 1980's. Basically he said he had ministered to many successful business people who were nearing the end of the life and never met a one who said I wish I would have spent more time with the business. It sums up life; we must work to live but we are more than our career and must also live. Enjoy the ride.

james caviston
Title: cfo
Company: renco corp
(cfo, renco corp) |

As someone who has worked 30 plus years in both research, client facing and management positions in a legal and finance capacity, I see a growing trend in professional partnerships and LLC's in offering employees time to spend with family, or in your case, the fiance. Your generation puts in incredible hours and most managers understand how it important that is to both the employee's and the firm's success.

It's a little different, though when your motivation is to try something different.You made a very revealing comment when you wrote "Part of me has a secret fantasy about an on the road epiphany and finding a whole new career,"

If this is a major part of your thinking right now, I would advise that you be as upfront as possible with your managing partners and firm mentor about this. If you are casting about for a new career because you are not satisfied with the current plan, then your management committee would probably not hold your position but most likely would be open to having you back when and if you have made that decision. More important, if you really are not happy, then you absolutely should leave regardless of whether your place there is secure or not.

If you are on track for partnership, then you want to impress upon them that you are doing this, in a big part, to make sure that you are "all-in" and just need a little break to enjoy a time with your fiance before coming back to work.

At that point, it is up to the firm management to decide how they want to move forward. I know if I were in their place, I would appreciate the direct discussion, and your plan for action, that ultimately informs your decision for the long run.

Good luck.

Anonymous
(VP - FInancial Planning and Analysis) |

First, if you are truly following your heart I think you should do it. If not, it is always going to linger and may at some point impact your performance. However, I think you need to consider the impact. Look at it from the perspective of you being the hiring manager of someone that made such a move. In the back of your mind, you would be wondering about commitment. You also could come back to a much different economic environment, good or bad. Things to consider.

David Rau
Title: CFO
Company: Cornerstoner Building Alliance Lumber SW
(CFO, Cornerstoner Building Alliance Lumber SW) |

Most regrets in life are thing you do not do versus things you do that may not work out. So do it. You will figure out how to re-enter the work place when that time rolls around. It would be great if your current employer would take you back, but that will probably be on a needs basis on their part. It you are really good, they most likely will take you back. Good luck and continue to chase your dreams.

Anonymous
(Sr. Financial Analyst) |

There is never a perfect a time, so if you are really certain that you would benefit from a break I say go for it. It is a once in a life time opportunity. It is not crazy or reckless if you have planned out your finances and not put yourself at risk.

I think it takes guts to do this and if I were hiring manager I would not frown upon it. However, keep in mind that others may question the decision. But this may be a good time to conquer your own confidence and not worry about others. In general I would say that in Silicon Valley a gap on the resume does not seem to be that uncommon, so if you return to SF Bay Area to work you should be able to get back into the workforce. But like other said keep up your relationships with ex-colleagues/bosses and consider some courses to keep your skills fresh.

Good luck to you!! I am hoping I can muster up the courage to take sabbatical as well.

Markus Hofmann
Title: Chief Financial Officer
Company: Profil Institute for Clinical Research, ..
(Chief Financial Officer, Profil Institute for Clinical Research, Inc.) |

Do it! I quit my job at age 39 and back-backed around the world with my wife for almost three years (67 countries). Best thing I've ever done in my life. The life experience you gain is invaluable and should be considered by any prospective employer when you try to get a job after your return.

Two pieces of advise: Keep in contact with your network even while you are gone (that's how I got a job) and keep up your CPEs to prove your knowledge is still current even though you were not working.

Chris Shumate
Title: Accounting Manager
Company: Dominion Development Group, LLC
LinkedIn Profile
(Accounting Manager, Dominion Development Group, LLC) |

Maybe it's time to try to get into industry work and leave public accounting work for good, at least working for a CPA firm. I'm not sure about the SFB area, but when I've checked for jobs in various areas there are more than a few that are looking for someone with a CPA.

Maybe on the open road is where an epiphany will come to you. I would suggest keeping a journal of sorts chronicling your journey. You may be able to turn it into a business self-help type book that will end up helping others on their career journey.

Regardless of the decision you make, best of luck in your endeavours.

Anonymous
(VP Finance) |

You are young and still very early on in your career. Do it and don't look back. I was 32 and in public accounting when on a whim and with a bit of encouragement from my wife, I took an offer in the Middle East and moved there with the family. While I have worked both back in the U.S. and in the Far and Middle East several times since then, the change in perspective positively changed my life.

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