While at lunch the other day, my good friend Chris reminded me of a situation we had not experienced in years.  As former soldiers, we both reflected fondly on the times we had cleared the Central Issue Facility (CIF), had the household goods packed and on the moving truck, family in the car, and our previous duty station in the rear view mirror as we headed off on 20 to 30 days  of Permanent Change of Station (PCS) leave. These occasions were rare. However, with an optimistic outlook toward future experiences and challenges, the PCS experience was revered by myself and many others. Chris remarked that many years ago he heard a Commanding General refer to the PCS move as “Garden Leave”. I found the term interesting and decided to seek a little more information.

It turns out the term “Garden Leave” is used in the commercial world for a variety of reasons. From a Human Resources (HR) perspective, “Garden Leave” describes the practice of an employee leaving a job and agreeing to stay away from work during a specified period of time, while still remaining on the payroll. This practice is often used occupations such as the financial industry to provide a “cooling off,” and to prevent employees from taking current proprietary information when they leave their current employer. The term is used more frequently in Britain, Australia and New Zealand.

How to Make the Most of Your Garden Leave

It turns out, I unknowingly practiced “Garden Leave” in the service when PCSing. You may also have the opportunity to take some terminal leave during your transition.  Perhaps, you may have a forced cool down period between the military and your first job. As a civilian, you may even find yourself in a situation where you get paid to not join a competitor for a designated period of time

What is the point of all this? It may be the one point of your life when you’re forced to stop working. Enjoy it!  Relax and take the time off. Reflect upon who you are, what you have accomplished and where you want to go.  Take a trip, hike the Appalachian Trail, head to the Keys, hang out in the backyard and do some gardening. Take some time to think and make sure your goals and objectives are truly in line with who you are as a person.

So take a few words of advice from a couple of old soldiers.  There is no need to go straight into your first job immediately after the military.  Very few times will you be able to take a significant number of paid days off once you leave the military.  You deserve a break after the service, if you can afford it….so enjoy.  It may be a long time before you get a similar benefit.

Wishing you a lucrative transition and hoping that you enjoy your “Garden Leave”.

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Jay Hicks is an author, instructor and consultant. With a special kinship for military personnel, Jay provides guidance on successful civilian career transition and has co-authored “The Transitioning Military Series”. He is the co-founder of Gr8Transitions4U, where advocating the value of hiring military personnel is the key focus. More about Jay and his passion can be found at Gr8Transitions4U.com.