Before You Take Your Career Break

A career break could range from a few months to a few years. In a previous post, we discussed the reasons that could lead to taking time off from your career track. In this post, we discuss a few factors to consider before taking the plunge.

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1. Be sure of your "why":  As career break coach Sue Hadden says, “Having a ‘Big Why’ will help keep you focused, motivated, and driven to achieve your goal. If you don’t have a strong reason why, then you may be disappointed with the results and not achieve what you intend to.”

2. Plan your break: An impulsive break seldom has the desired effects. To make optimal use of your time, and reap the best benefits, address your "why." Set about planning to achieve the purpose of your break in a meaningful way. Talk to people to gain insights and advice in the areas that you want to focus during your break.

3. Explore your options: To minimize your risk, check out alternate options. If your break is just for a few months, check out your organization’s policies. Are there options for sabbaticals or long leaves? Talk to your manager and HR representative to understand what can work for you. A sabbatical is a benefit that many companies offer to employees who’ve been in the organization for a while or are in senior roles. It is unpaid time off, in addition to your vacation time, and an understanding that your role will be held for you when you return. If sabbatical is not an option, try making a strong case identifying how the break will benefit you and the organization. You may be able to work out some options.

4. Take your family into confidence: The reality is your decision affects your family, too. Let them know what you plan to do with your time and why is it important for you to take the time off. A personal decision sometimes needs a lot of support to succeed, and once you have the support, your chances for success multiply, because the number of people keeping you honest increase manifold.

5. Work around your finances: Are you able to manage your finances for the duration of your break? Do you have a support system? Would part-time or vocational jobs help if you are traveling? What about your living expenses? Though risky sometimes, there can always be a workaround, e.g. renting out your house, minimizing commuting costs, moving to a place with a low cost of living. etc. Career consultant Lisa Carr suggests seeking consulting opportunities with your current organization, training staff, and online research as other options to finance your break.

6. Know what you want after the break: Keep a track of your new skills and interests. If you have explored multiple areas, have you found your passion? Talk to like-minded people to explore options. If you want to come back to your old profession, which is a possibility, create a strategy to make your newly acquired skills more valuable to the role.

Tell Us What You Think

Have you taken a career break or are considering taking one? Do you have any suggestions or experiences to share? Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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