The problem with taking a career break is that – even in this day and age – some people tend to regard it as somewhat flaky.
Those who don’t know better (and there are invariably always some) assume it’s an excuse to mooch around a beach in South East Asia for six months, doing – well, not a lot.
Occasionally, these cynics can infect you with their doubts. You start to convince yourself that you should “do the sensible thing” by staying put and working your way solidly up the career ladder.
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But all this obscures the fact that taking a career break really can hold *huge* benefits, not all of which are immediately evident.
Below, we’ve picked out the best reasons for taking a sabbatical, as told by life coaches and the travellers who’ve done it. Give wings to your scheming – the adventure starts here…
Re-charge your batteries
“In our society, we’re lead to believe that only hard work is productive, but I’d argue that rest is just as worthwhile,” says Chloe Brotheridge, anxiety hypnotherapist and founder of calmer-you.com.
“You can’t pour from an empty cup, so taking the time to work on yourself and replenish your reserves could mean you’re in a better position than before you started.”
Consultant Teha Kennard quit her job in a large Washington DC firm last year to go travelling, and the move completely altered the way she thought about stress.
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“Caught up in a corporate hamster wheel, I found myself getting stressed about things that were just not important,” she says. “The value of my days was based on what I had accomplished, regardless of whether what I had accomplished really mattered. For example, if I missed a day at the gym I would feel like my whole day was thrown off and was not successful.
“Now I take the days as they come, and enjoy them for what they are.”
Gain fresh perspective
“A career break can provide a rare opportunity to clear your head and have time to think about yourself – and not the other 1000 pressures you face at work,” says Jane Sunley, chairman and founder of employee engagement consultancy, Purple Cubed.
“It’s not unusual for people on career breaks to have a bit of an epiphany, and change career direction completely. Or, it might just reaffirm that what you’re doing is the right role challenge for you, which will help you to banish the ‘what ‘if’ feelings.”
Lindsay Ferry from Essex quickly noticed the difference after pressing pause on her corporate city career last year, for a series of bucket list trips.
“Simply by changing the pace of my life, I feel much more aware and connected to my surroundings,” she says. “Taking a mental break from the same old routine has really sparked my creativity, and encouraged me to be more confident in learning new skills.”
Expand your thinking
After years of hiking up the career ladder, taking time out can prompt fresh ideas, and often, a whole new way of thinking.
“My stress levels have evaporated,” says Frankie Flower, who has just quit her London job at a corporate firm to train as a ski instructor in British Colombia.
“The commute and office are so beautiful that they completely clear my mind and help me focus on the here and now. Going back to ski school is making my brain work in a different way, also – it’s like going back to school, only my skis are my desk and my poles, my pen.
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“I’ve already met many new people, of all ages and from many walks of life,” she adds. “I think I’ve made more connections this year than I have in the last 10. I’ve also found a new appreciation for time and breathing. Simple, but apparently I wasn’t doing it properly back home!”
Launch a new career
“More and more people are going freelance, developing portfolio careers and generally blending personal and professional lives,” says Corinne Mills, author of Career Coach, and managing director at Personal Career Management..
Tap into this trend by test-driving more flexible work methods that suit you, whether that’s remote working from a cooperative digital space in Bali, or taking up contract projects to try new skills in-between your travels.
“Many people who take time out don’t end up going back,” says Corinne. “Once they’re on the break, and with distance, it drives home the inkling that they’re not happy and want to do something else. Just taking that leap is enough to lead to a bigger change.”
Taking a career break can be scary – so, here’s one last thought from Teha.
“Employers want to hire people who are naturally curious and not afraid to take calculated risks, both in their professional and personal lives,” she says.
“Don’t let fear of how taking a break will be perceived keep you from doing it. You only live once. Yes, you need to make sure the timing works for you, both career-wise and financially. But, we are only on this earth for a short time. We only have so many opportunities to explore it.”
Images: Flash Pack, Teha Kennard, Frankie Flower, Lindsay Ferry