For two summers while I was in college, I worked with children at an academic summer camp. I enjoyed that job a great deal.

I have now graduated college and have a full time job doing project management at a small business, which enjoys very busy winters and somewhat overly-quiet summers. I like my company and coworkers a lot, and do not want to leave.

That said, I'd really like to return to the summer camp this coming July, and although I'd be willing to use vacation time to do so, a camp session is three weeks long and I only get ten vacation days a year. As a result, I'm considering asking for unpaid leave, which would result in a small but manageable pay-cut during my time away.

The way I see it, my company would probably prefer to not pay me during the months I have relatively little to do, making this a win-win for both parties. However, I also don't want to give the impression that I am unhappy with or uncommitted to my primary job. How can I go about this conversation, and should I in the first place?

My company has no formal HR department. My bosses are the three co-owners of the business.

  • You just have to ask and it is all about how you frame your question. Point out the benefits for the company of you taking an unpaid leave of absence. Mention how much you like working there, and how much you like your colleagues. However, if they say "no", I would not take vacation to do the summer camp. You need that time to unwind.
    – Pete B.
    Commented Feb 6, 2017 at 15:36
  • Since your company has no formal HR department, I'd suggest it the same way. Just "put out feelers" by saying something like "How would you feel..." with the boss with which you have the best rapport. And be honest. "I'm not making a formal request because if it's a problem I understand, but I would like some guidance as to whether that would be acceptable if at some point I should ask". That way you're asking without asking.
    – Chris E
    Commented Feb 6, 2017 at 17:32
  • It's always Ok to ask, as long as it is something that a sane employer or manager might agree to.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Feb 6, 2017 at 23:57

3 Answers 3


Basically, you say the same thing to your boss as you said here:

  • You're aware that summer is a slow time for the business
  • You worked at summer camp in the past and really enjoyed it
  • What would they think about giving you unpaid leave to do it again this year?

The only thing here is to make it clear you're aware this is a privilege, not a right, and to take a "no" graciously.


Talk to your manager about it. Some companies will give you a bit of additional time for community service, and it sounds like this might qualify as such. The worst they can say is no....


I try to find answer to your interesting question. Yea, definitely Yes. But you should take care of these three conditions,

  • Be a valued employee. If you’re in a great working relationship with your employer, they are more likely to bend the rules to let you travel.
  • Try to make them need you more than you need them. The proposals that worked best for me were in hard-to-fill jobs.
  • Have great rapport with the person who will ultimately approve the request. Ask that person directly for the time off when possible.

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