Career break – grown up gap year or 21st century necessity?

A career break, also sometimes called a sabbatical, is an increasingly popular option with people part-way through their working life.

Like the grown-up gap year, they take some planning and people choose to take the time off for a variety of reasons. So why would you take a career break, and if you’re already thinking of taking some time out of your 9-5, what factors do you need to consider?

Why have a career break?

The obvious reason for people to have a career break is to care for young children, but popularity has soared in recent years as both men and women look for new ways to reinvigorate their career, look after their health, or find a new path.

Caring for family members – not necessarily children – is another major reason for people to have a career break. Recent research estimates 2.4m adults in the UK are part of the Sandwich Generation who are caring for both their own children and ageing relatives. In what can be an overwhelming situation, taking a career break can feel like a sensible option.

Other reasons to take a career break can include looking after your health, doing charity work, retraining or studying, and being forced to take a break due to redundancy. It could also be driven by a desire to travel – many adults prefer to do this later in their career when they have money saved up and potentially a greater understanding of the value they want to get from the experience.

If you have the luxury of taking a career break without the added stress of recuperating from an illness or needing to care for relatives, how can you make the most of it?

Getting the most out of your chosen career break

If you’re planning to take some time out of your career then practicalities have to be a factor. Sustaining your quality of life by making sure you have savings will mean that most people need a decent length of time to plan for a career break.

You could decide to talk to your employer about the opportunity to take a sabbatical – many now support employees to take leave. Although they don’t have any obligation to, some can see the benefits that a career break can bring to both the employee and the business.  A number of factors will influence whether your employer will agree to granting you continuity of employment and keeping your job open for when you will return. The alternative could be they ask to end your current contract but guarantee to find you a role when you return. Not everyone wants to go back to their old job after a break, but for some it provides great security.

But once you have the practicalities taken care of, it’s worth thinking about what you want to get out of the time you take for yourself. Do you want to learn new skills, see new places or meet new people? Or is the time off more about recharging and feeling more like yourself?

If you have a partner it’s wise to discuss your ideas together so you can arrive at an agreed plan for your time out. If you’re lucky enough to both be taking time off, perhaps to travel together, then sharing your expectations and planning together will become even more important!

Staying resilient during a sabbatical

A critical question to consider when planning to take an extended break from working is how will you fill your time? It may sound like a luxury, but when faced with seven days a week and no demands to go anywhere or do anything, it can be easy to slip into boredom or bad habits which could lead to mental ill-health.

Ensuring you have a clear idea of what you want to get out of your break will help you to plan for that. If you’re hoping to learn new skills, investigate what courses are available or other ways to learn them – job shadowing or learning from someone else, for example.

If you want to meet new people you’ll need ways of doing that too. Volunteering can be a brilliant way to meet a diverse range of people and to give something back. (Read more about the benefits of volunteering in this blog). You could also see what clubs or groups are local to you now your days are your own or look at getting involved in an overseas project combining travel with giving back too!

Janine Robinson recently gave up her career and sold almost all of her possessions to move to Uganda with her husband and teenage daughter, leaving her grown-up son in the UK.

“The only way I can describe my journey to deciding to make a change is like when you eat beautiful meal and you feel full, but not satisfied. You think you could eat something else, but you aren’t sure what. That’s how I had I started to feel – full but not quite satisfied with my life.

“We were driven by the thought of getting old and having done the same things day in, day out and always wondering what other opportunities we might miss if we didn’t take the leap of faith this move required.

“The idea of improving others’ lives and feeling we really had a purpose mattered to us.”

Janine plans to stay in Uganda for five years but isn’t sure what the future holds after that.

Thinking about going back to work after a career break

When coming to the end of your career break you’ll need to think about how you get back into the swing of work. Take a look at this blog for some tips.

If you’ve been lucky enough to have a job which has been held for you, adjusting back into the routine of work will take a bit of effort. If your break is coming to an end and you’re looking for a new role you will need to be prepared to talk about the break in employment history and why it has been of benefit to you.

If you want some support to plan a career break, job move, or just to talk through your career options, give me a call to book a free chemistry session.

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