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Ditching the Corporate World - But Only for a While

(2007-10-03 20:16:26)
标签:

职场/励志

职场

梦想

华尔街日报

工薪层

环游

渴望

影响

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.'

SUE SHELLENBARGER
中文版
为梦想,暂别职场又何妨?
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。

那些20多岁的工薪族经常梦想着能停下手头的工作去环游四方,或去实现其他人生梦想。但许多年轻专业人士担心,从快节奏的职场生涯中脱离过久不利于今后的事业发展,而且他们也认为自己的财力支撑不了长期没有进帐的日子。

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。

阿尔波特的故事告诉人们,年轻专业人士有时会比他们自己认为的更具灵活性。他解释了自己是如何做到休假游世界的。

困难:“当我大学低年级有机会出国时我对旅行的喜好开始迸发出来,我很快便沉溺其中。我想去见识这个世界。2004年,东南亚成了我背包游的下一个目的地。

“我当时已在任职的那家公司干了大约5年。公司的业务发展得很好,那里有一种积极进取的工作环境,是个干事业的好地方。但我觉得是该歇歇了。

办法:“首先要劝我妻子卡伦(Karen)接受从日复一日的刻板工作中脱身6个月的想法。一开始她将这视为疯人噫语。我们就这一想法沟通了好几个月。我俩当时已颇有积蓄;6个月不工作不会让我们没饭吃。人们往往会高估实现这类梦想的成本。我们有房子,租金收入可以用来还房贷。关键是要让卡伦相信我不会丢掉原有工作。

“人们对休长假的主要顾虑往往是,如何能请下这么长时间的假?这将对自己抚育下一代以及攒养老钱的能力产生何种影响?这些担心大部分都属于过虑。最主要的损失其实就是那6个月的收入。我对此很能想得开,觉得在职业生涯初期损失掉的这点收入日后完全能够弥补回来。与20至30年的职场生涯相比,6个月不过是九牛一毛。如果你有机会休6个月长假,那就赶早不赶晚。

“我向自己的顶头上司递交了一份休假计划,和盘托出了自己的打算,包括要求公司能继续保留我的职位。他的第一反应是震惊。在他心绪平静下来后,我们开始共同拟定休假计划。当我去见上司的上司时,他采取了乐观其成的态度。他们确实找到了两全之策。关键一点是在我回来后公司仍能有我一席之地。除了其他一些约定外,公司还同意按我全年的实际工作时间给我发放年终奖,并同意这一年会给我正常涨工资,不过增幅会比往年低25%。

(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。)

“我们开始了自己所谓的周游世界之旅;其实我们大部分时间都花在了东南亚。与仅有两周的度假不同,6个月的长假可以使我们得到充分放松。”(点击进入阿尔波特的个人网站查看他们的旅行照片和记录。)

阿尔波特夫妇在马来西亚后遗症:“离职6个月后回到工作岗位,这时感受到的文化冲击比走时更强烈。我们于周六夜间抵达美国,我周一就回去上班了。那不是一段我愿意回味的日子。首先,回忆起我们文化中一些约定俗成的东西就需花些力气,比如说着装礼仪,工作场合应有的言谈举止,以及要专心做好手头的工作,不要想入非非等。最难的是要重新适应办公室的工作氛围以及工作的性质,不能再听任自己的心情行事了。

“休这段长假可能会耽误我6个月的前程。如果我不中断工作,这段时间内我可能已获得提升了。不过,我返回工作岗位不久便被升了职。虽然就职于一家非盈利机构的卡伦为这次旅行而辞了职,但我们回来后她又被这家机构重新聘用。这次旅行尽管使我们积攒财富的进度停顿了6个月,但27岁时的6个月与37岁时的6个月是大相径庭的。我俩这6个月共花费17,000美元,花的钱比在家过日子时还要少。此外,我和妻子还支出了5,000美元的机票费。”

结果:“这段经历的价值要远远大于为此支出的微小成本,无论是就金钱成本还是事业成本而言。我在旅途中遇到的人、所接触的文化以及由此增加的经历都使我获益匪浅,他们使我更加成熟,阅历大大丰富。这些对我职业生涯的帮助比许多人认为的要大得多。置身于一个陌生的社会环境,要对周围发生的变化及时作出反应,经历令人不快的局面,与形形色色的人以及不同的文化打交道,这些会使你更加敏感,并使你能更好地适应不断变化的商业环境。如果你曾操着一口外国腔在婆罗洲的丛林里与强收买路钱的当地村民讨价还价,你还会惧怕与客户谈判吗?如果你曾沿野象踩出的小道找回了家,在公司内一级级往上爬还有何难?如果你曾坐8个小时慢车、为的就是到老挝丛林里一处离地面120英尺的树屋去过一夜,与一只幼长臂猿共同经历它一生的第一次雷暴,还有什么商务旅行不能忍受?这段经历给了你新的人生参考坐标。

“这次旅行影响了我们的关系。许多人都曾认为,如果长达6个月的时间整天厮守在一起,我和卡伦简直会杀了对方,但实际情况却恰恰相反。这次旅行大大密切了我们的关系,这可能应归功于我们一开始就十分默契吧。

“我发现,人们对外出旅行的渴望永远无法真正满足。那次回来后,我们又先后去洪都拉斯、突尼斯和维尔京群岛做短期旅行。9个月前我们有了一个女儿,生儿育女本身就是件冒险的事。但我们最近还是抽时间去了次尼加拉瓜,而把女儿暂交给我父母照看。我从小就被告知,总有一天我不得不接受平淡无奇的生活。我害怕这一天的到来,不过我现在还没看到它的影子。

SUE SHELLENBARGER
来自华尔街日报!

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