How To Take a Successful Career Break
If you feel like you have reached a rough place in your professional life, you should remember that nearly everyone experiences a form of burnout at some point in their career.
Sometimes you feel anxious because you are in the wrong position. That’s not unusual.
People change jobs an average of a dozen times, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Perhaps you feel you are in the wrong profession entirely. (There’s no shame in that!) It’s been shown that people change careers entirely an average of five times in their lives. Maybe you feel like your degree is holding you back and you’d like to do something new. (Don’t fret about that either.) According to the Washington Post, only 27% of people have a job that is associated with their bachelor’s degree.
With all that in mind, if you feel frustrated or burned out in your career, you might want to take a quick (or not-so-quick) break to reassess your needs and to recharge yourself.
How and why people take career breaks
There are a number of reasons people take career breaks.
Break for a lifecycle event: Some people will take a break to raise small children at home or to take care of an elderly relative. The important thing to remember here is that this break is not unusual and that future employers will understand how this fits into a normal career path. While there are very few ways to get paid for this kind of break in the US, some companies will provide paid maternity leave, so check on the policies in place at your workplace. If that is not feasible, keep in mind that there are tax incentives to take advantage of if you are taking care of a child or dependent.
Break for a passion project: Sometimes start-up ideas or the chance to work for a mission-based nonprofit for a couple of years, just come out of nowhere. Maybe you feel you have to grab the opportunity while you can.
Before taking a full break from your current career track however, you should assess if it is possible to work on your passion project as a side hustle until it gets off the ground. Then, if things work out, you can go full time. If you do that, however, you’ll still want to make sure you leverage your experience for aspects of the work that connect to a larger career path. Does your start-up give you sales experience that you’ll be able to use? Did your non-profit give you leadership experience? Keeping this in mind is key, just in case you want to rejoin a larger company later in life.
You want to travel and be your own boss: The switch into the freelance lifestyle is getting easier with so many people now working remotely. This gives you the chance to travel and work at the same time without jeopardizing your career path. Many people are even being given salaried positions without needing to check in at a central office. Of course, the free life of travel and working where you want isn’t for everyone. Those who can travel easily and not stress out about family obligations are much more likely to have the freedom to take this kind of break.
Educate yourself: Of course, one of the other major reasons to take a career break is to go back to school. It’s not always necessary to break for this, so ask your boss if they are willing to help you take on school and work simultaneously. If you are building skills that offer long term benefits to your company, your boss might even reduce your work hours, help you pay for the degree, or let you take leave, while securing your job upon your return.
Taking a career break doesn’t necessarily mean you suddenly have time to relax. If you can plan effectively and look to the future, however, a career break can be a refreshing way to refocus your life.
Need more info on the pros and cons of career breaks? Take a look at this infographic created by Bestow that will help you best position yourself for a much-needed break.