We’ve all probably thought about it at some point. Whether it’s daydreaming about travelling to far flung destinations or starting some charity work, career breaks have often felt like a pipe dream rather than a viable option.
A few years ago, this would probably be the case. However, as employers become more progressive and in keeping with the modern world, it is now far more accepted than it once was. Rather than killing your career, a break from working life can actually make you a much more rounded candidate, as you’ll be able to demonstrate your life skills and initiative. You’ll also gain a fresh perspective on your career, and be able to suss out what it is you want to do when you’re ready to return to work. So how do you weigh up your options and decide if a career break is right for you?
Consider a sabbatical
If you’re set on taking a break, start by sussing out what’s practical. If the idea of resigning is a bit too much for you, it’s worth investigating whether you can take leave as a sabbatical. Speak to your employer to see if this is something that can be negotiated, as you then have the added security of being able to return to your current job role.
This doesn’t suit everyone though, as it doesn’t give as much freedom as a full career break. Taking a complete step back from work life can sometimes be the more effective option, as it allows you to think more clearly about your future without being tied to any commitments. Be proactive with your time off, take opportunities to find new perspectives, and you may well end up wanting to take your career in a new direction.
Assess your finances
A bit of an obvious one, but you need to ensure that you have enough financial stability to support yourself while taking unpaid leave. If you have a plan of what you already want to achieve during your career break, it’s wise to start saving as soon as you have this in mind, especially if you have ambitious travel plans!
If you have any particular skill sets that you can rely upon for income as you travel (such a content writing or IT support) then all the better. No pressure if not though- you’ll just have to save up a bit more money to support yourself along the way.
Volunteering is always a great option, especially if you want to spend some time abroad without burning too much cash. There are plenty of worldwide volunteering programmes available these days- spend a bit of time researching charities and packages, or pop into your local STA Travel for some sound advice. Many schemes charge a fixed rate that will pay for your flights, accommodation and insurance, such as Camp America and The Global Work & Travel Co. Have a browse and see if anything tickles your fancy.
Build your skills
Use your time away from the office strategically. If you want to explore new avenues, start by looking at gaining experience in a new field– this can be anything from learning a new language or caring for children/older relatives. You ultimately want to be able to demonstrate your skills when you return to work, so a focus upon developing soft skills such as communication and time management will stand you in good stead. Keep your online presence up to date and professional (LinkedIn, Instagram etc.) to show your digital communities that you’re using your time off productively, as this may be viewed by potential employers!
Hobbies and interests can also help you build tangible soft skills during your career break, but exercise caution when including these on your CV. These interests have to be relevant to any potential jobs you apply for in the future, so be sure to bear this in mind when pursuing new avenues.
When it comes to career breaks, there’s now more options than ever before. Remember, there’s no right or wrong way to go about it- you ultimately have to decide on what’s best for you, how long you want your career break to be, and how you will see the most benefit from your time away from the office.
Returning to work after a career break? Drop us a line to find out how we can help with your job search.