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Ditching the Corporate World - But Only for a While

(2007-10-03 20:16:26)









分类: 商业篇
Who: Avi Alpert, 30 years old, Silver Spring, Md.

His problem: How do you satisfy a yen to travel the world when you're tied to a demanding corporate job?

Cubicle dwellers in their 20s often dream of taking a sabbatical to travel or pursue some other dream. But many young professionals fear career damage from stepping off the fast track, or assume a long break is beyond their reach financially.

At age 27, Avi Alpert was rising in the consulting ranks of the Corporate Executive Board, a Washington, D.C.-based provider of research and advisory services that has nearly tripled revenues in the past five years to $461 million. Still he managed to break away for a six-month global trip with his wife -- and found the costs surprisingly low.

Mr. Alpert's story shows how young professionals sometimes have more flexibility than they think. He explains how he was able to pull it off:

The Challenge: 'My love of travel blossomed while spending my junior year of college abroad. I had the opportunity for extensive travel, and I took to it right away. I wanted to see the world. By 2004, Southeast Asia was one backpacking destination I had yet to see.

'I had been with my employer for about five years. It was an exciting, high-growth, entrepreneurial environment and a great place to work. But I felt it was time for a break.'

The Solution: 'Selling my wife, Karen, on the idea of taking six months off required persistence. At first, she dismissed it as the ramblings of a crazy person. We talked about it for a few months. We had decent savings; taking six months out of the work force wasn't going to leave us broke. People overestimate the cost of an endeavor like this. We have a house, which we rented out to cover the mortgage payments. Karen's key need was to know that I had a job guarantee on the flip side.

'The major objections to taking a sabbatical are always, how can you take so much time out of the work force? How will this affect your ability to save for kids? For retirement? Most of those concerns are overblown. The major loss is the six months' income. I rationalized it by thinking that at this early point in my career, the loss of income is far less than it would be later in my career. Over the course of 20 to 30 years in the work force, six months is a drop in the bucket. If there's a chance to do it, now is that chance.

'I drafted a proposal for my manager describing what I wanted to do, including a request for a job guarantee, among other things. His initial reaction was shock. Once that wore off, we worked together on constructing a plan. When I met with his boss, his demeanor was, 'We'll find a way to make this work.' And they did. The key component was having a position for me when I came back. Among other things, they also agreed to a pro-rated bonus and a regular annual salary increase, reduced by 25%.'

[Mr. Alpert's boss, Anil Prahlad, a managing director, says he was surprised by the proposal, but supportive, partly because Mr. Alpert was 'a solid performer.' The Corporate Executive Board allows unpaid sabbaticals with continued benefits for junior employees, but few use the policy. Mr. Prahlad has noticed benefits; Mr. Alpert clearly 'grew as a person, and had more perspective' as a result of the career break, he says.]

'We set out on what we called an around-the-world trip; in actuality, we spent most of our time in Southeast Asia. Unlike a two-week vacation, taking six months gave us the luxury to be relaxed.' [For an account and photos of the Alperts' journey see their Web site.]

The Downside: 'Coming back to work after six months was more of a culture shock than leaving. We arrived in the U.S. on a Saturday night, and I moved right back into work on Monday. In retrospect, that isn't something I'd recommend. At first, there were a few struggles remembering what our culture was supposed to be like, such as the formality of dress and expression in corporate America and the narrow focus on the job at hand, with little desire for unplanned distraction. The hardest part was adjusting to working in an office space, and the nature of work, versus being out on our own.

'The sabbatical probably held me back about six months in my career. If I had stayed, I might have been up for promotion during the time we were away. Instead, I was promoted soon after I came back. And although Karen quit her job at a nonprofit to take the trip, the same organization hired her back after we returned. The trip also held us back about six months in our financial planning, but six months at 27 is far different than six months at 37. Our living expenses at $17,000 for the six-month period were less than at home; we spent an additional $5,000 for plane tickets for both of us.'

The Outcome: 'The value of the experience far outweighs the minimal cost, to either my finances or career. Integrating all I learned from the people I met on the road, the cultures I encountered and the experiences I had, have made me a more well-rounded individual with a breadth of experience to draw upon. That's far more applicable in the corporate world than many people think. The experience of living in an unstructured environment, reacting to change, being in uncomfortable situations and dealing with different personalities and cultures makes you both more sensitive, and more able to roll with constant change in the business environment. How can you be intimidated by negotiating with a client when you've negotiated safe passage in a foreign tongue with villagers in the back jungles of Borneo? How can navigating the corporate ladder be that hard when you've navigated unmarked elephant trails to guide you home? Can business travel be all that intimidating when you've trekked eight hours in a slow lorry to spend the night in a tree house 120 feet off the ground in the Laotian jungle, cuddling a baby gibbon through his first thunderstorm? It gives you new frames of reference.

'The trip affected our relationship. A lot of people thought Karen and I were going to kill each other, being together for six months, but it had quite the opposite effect. It made us much closer, probably because we were very well-matched to begin with.

'One thing I've found is that the yen for travel is never truly satisfied. Since we got back, we've been on short trips to Honduras, Tunisia and the Virgin Islands. We had a baby daughter nine months ago, which is in its own way an adventure. But we did spend time in Nicaragua recently while my parents took care of her. One thing I've been told, since I was very young, is that 'some day it will all catch up with me' -- that I'm going to have to settle into the typical paradigm of a successful adult in the United States of America. I fear it, but I have yet to see any indication that it will.'

马里兰州30岁的艾维"阿尔波特(Avi Alpert)将告诉我们,公司事务缠身的人如何实现周游世界的愿望。


阿尔波特27岁那年正在华盛顿一家名为Corporate Executive Board的顾问公司顺风顺水地干着咨询工作,这家公司的收入在过去5年中增长了近两倍,达到4.61亿美元。但阿尔波特却成功地休了半年的长假,与妻子来一次环球旅行,并由此发现周游世界的费用低得惊人。







(阿尔波特的上司是公司的董事总经理艾尼尔"普拉拉德(Anil Prahlad)。他说阿尔波特提交的休假计划令他意外,但他还是决定予以支持,这部分是因为阿尔波特在公司一贯表现良好。Corporate Executive Board允许其低层员工在保留福利待遇的同时停薪休长假,但却很少有人申请这么做。普拉拉德提到了福利;他说,阿尔波特显然还在成长,暂别一段职业生涯有助于开阔他的视野。)









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