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Asking Your Boss for a Transfer or Sabbatical

By: Maggie Lonsdale BA (hons) - Updated: 3 Jan 2013 | comments*Discuss
Boss Transfer Sabbatical Work Company

A transfer or sabbatical is a great way to experience working abroad without necessarily having to say goodbye to your current job. If you work for an international company or a large company that regularly has personnel changes, this could be the perfect way to go and work abroad for a set period of time, especially if you are well prepared in how you request the time from your boss.

Asking your boss or line manager for a transfer or sabbatical can be a daunting task, not least when we are in difficult economic times and it is not necessarily a good idea to stick your head above the parapet. Although it is all too easy to say that you are entitled to request a transfer, sabbatical or flexible working in the eyes of the current employment law regulations, that does not always mean that it’s a good idea when your employer may be looking for ways to cut costs. Asking for such ‘privileges’ may make you a little too visible and can look negative, or as though you are looking to leave, so the best way to keep this to your advantage is to carefully prepare how you approach your boss.

What Options Do You Have?

Start by making sure you understand the type of company you work for and the opportunities that may be available for transfers or sabbaticals. International and global companies often have all sorts of opportunities in different offices – your HR department is a good place to start, or the internal vacancies section on your company website or intranet.

One word of warning here, though. It is imperative that you can be objective about how good you are at your job before you start asking for a transfer or a sabbatical. Only the employees that perform well will be able to ask for something like this and either get it or at least not have the request as a black mark on your personnel record. If you are not performing particularly well, you will need to either decide to improve your performance and ask for a transfer in six months or a year, or leave the company and find your own position working abroad. Of course, if you’re planning on leaving anyway you could at least ask and not have anything to loose, but if you want to keep your job this may not be the best way to go about it!

Prepare Your Case

Once you have learnt about what potential opportunities there may be within your company, either through existing internal vacancies or simply because you are interested in a certain project in another country or a particular office, you need to prepare your case to present to your boss or line manager.

There are two clear areas that need preparation – how you will benefit the company in the new position and how your current role will be filled or covered. Step away from thinking what you will benefit from the opportunity and think about how your experience will benefit the company. For example, if there is a vacancy in the Paris office within your field of expertise, you will need to point out how your experience on a particular project in the UK will be good for the Paris office and how, when you return, your improvement in language skills will be good for your current team. Show how your colleagues will be able to cover your work, how you will stay in touch and how your current role will not suffer. This may include showing how much a temp would cost, for example, or how an intern could cover certain aspects alongside your colleagues.

What to Say

Once you’ve prepared your case, you will need to approach your boss to put your case forward. As long as you have looked into every angle of your transfer or sabbatical from the perspective of the company, you will be able to present a positive case. You are allowed to say how the move will benefit you personally, but even this must always have a benefit to the company. Request a meeting with your boss or line manager via email and say why you want to have a meeting with them so that they may also prepare. Try to be flexible in the length of time or location wherever possible and it will be more likely that the company will be keen to accept your request.

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