Everything you need to know about taking a career break
So, what exactly is a career break? What can I do on a career break? How do I organise a career break? What would I gain from taking a career break?
These are all questions that I asked myself when I planted the seed in my head of quitting my job to travel the world.
I completely under-appreciated how much taking a career break would change my life, add excitement, fulfilment and how much I would learn about different cultures. Career breaks can give you a new lease on life, enhance your future career and teach you skills that you will be able to utilise after you return home.
Career breaks, sometimes referred to as sabbaticals (if you keep your current job) or gap years (usually taken before you have an established career path) all result in the same thing.....time to yourself to spend however you please, to travel the world or pursue a passion.
Why should I take a career break?
This is a very broad question and there is no simple answer. Every single person who takes a career break will have slightly different reasons for doing so. Firstly, it comes down to if can you afford (money and time) to take a career break and if you have any solid reason why you can't take some time off? If the opportunity arises are you going to regret it in the future if you don't go for it?
You need to ask yourself how you will benefit from taking a career break? Maybe you are bored with your job, home life and social life. A career break will give you time to think about other career paths or how you can change your life for the better. You probably spend more time at work than you do at home and if you are not happy, do something about it! That is exactly what I did. I didn't hate my job but I needed to do something different. I needed a bit of excitement in my life.
Do you really want to wait until you retire to see the world or learn that new skill?
You can learn a lot about yourself by having time off from work and relieving yourself of the normal day to day stresses. You may discover skills you didn't realise you had and this could result in finding a new career which is more suited to your personality and skill set when you return home.
Career breaks give you time to recharge and refresh yourself and when it is over you will have a different outlook on life. You will meet new people on your career break and will get to know how other cultures live. Your dream may be to move to a small town in Italy and learn to cook authentic Italian food. An experience like this will not only provide you with new skills such as cooking but you will really get to know the locals and live their way of life. Experiences like this stay with you forever.
I could keep writing and writing about the positives of taking a career break but I'm sure I will bore you. In short, a career break will provide you with time to do what you love, to learn new skills, put yourself outside your comfort zone and make memories that will last a lifetime.
How long do career breaks last for?
How long is a piece of string? How long do you want to go for? You have quit your job and your time is yours to spend how you want. Most of the time it comes down to how much money you have saved up. The average career break would usually last anything from 1month to 2 years, but there are some people who keep on travelling for years on end and find a way out of returning to the 9-5. I took one year out of work but eventually, my money did run out and that was when I had to dust off my CV and get back into the working world.
What can I do on a career break?
What can't you do on a career break? There is no hard and fast rule of how you should spend your time off. Just because a lot of people choose to travel on their career break doesn't mean that travel will be right for you! If you want to hide away and focus on writing a novel or if you want to learn how to produce music, then so be it. A career break is the one time to actually pursue your dream. If you are having a crappy day at work what do you daydream about? What do you wish you were doing? Where do you want to be? Answering those questions is probably a good starting point.
It's your time and it is up to you how you choose to spend it. However, I would say to do something productive. You want to look back on your career break and feel like you have accomplished something and have put yourself outside of your comfort zone (even just a little bit). Future employers will also want to see that you have used your time for personal development, which you can then utilise in the workplace. Whatever you choose to do, take your time and try to avoid rushing around like you usually would when working full time. Not having a job will allow you to take your time, whether that is travelling slower or spending more quality time learning new skills. You want your break to feel like a break.
The most common types of career breaks are taken to:
- Travel the world
- Teach abroad (usually with a TEFL qualification)
- Take a course, for example, learning to be a diving instructor, learning sign language or novel writing
- Volunteer, either at home or abroad
- Work abroad (which could be related to your current job or something completely different)
- Move to a different country to get to know the culture
But these are just a few examples and the world is your oyster. Do what makes you happy.
I have decided to go on a career break, but I don't know where to start?
I agree that it is a very daunting task and that is one of the main reasons I started Career Break Kate. I was looking for first-hand experiences of individuals who had taken career breaks but struggled to find what I was looking for and so this website was born. I have linked various different articles at the bottom of the page which should provide you with some guidance as to how to plan your career break.
Why did I take a career break?
I took a career break in my late twenties for a few reasons. I didn't go on a typical gap year to see the world when I was 18 and regretted this decision later on. This regret continued to bother me, up until the day I booked a one-way flight to India, 11 years later. As soon as I booked this flight, I had an instant weight lifted off my shoulders; I was excited, nervous and at this point even worried if I had made a mistake. For me, my career break around the world changed my life. I have seen such beauty in other people, even when they have nothing, learnt about horrific times and struggles which some countries have gone through, have seen some of the most beautiful landscapes and swam in the clearest waters. I was happy in my job but I had worked in law firms for 8 years and I needed a break to refresh myself and to take myself outside of my comfort zone.
I was petrified of handing in my notice and making the leap to take some time off, but I have no regrets and trust me, taking a career break will change your life in some positive way and the memories will last a lifetime. Go for it!
I would love to hear if you have taken a career break or sabbatical and what you did with your time! If you would like to be interviewed for the Career Break Interview Series then get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.