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TAKING A CAREER BREAK OR SABBATICAL
Most of us have probably dreamt of having a career break or a sabbatical year at one point or another. We’ve all make efforts at work, usually during boring, dreary days at the office. Or a we have accepted the burden of a hectic, stressful time at work or even sitting in traffic for hours during the long commute home. Career breaks naturally sound quite attractive, but it is very important that you take your time to think about if it’s really suitable for you, and, if it is, exactly why would you want a career break and what do you hope to achieve.
Taking a career break: is it right for you?
Be honest with yourself and your career advisor. Will six months or a full year away from your career really make all the difference, or are you simply in the wrong job? That could very well explain your itchy feet. There are lots of reasons why people choose to take some time out from their career. For example, you might always have intended to travel or you may wish to give something back to the community through a volunteering program. Or perhaps you want to return to studying, devote some time to that very special and long-neglected project of yours (like writing a novel), care for a family member or just see your friends more often. These are just a few of the reasons behind people’s decisions to take a career break. It is not an exhaustive list, but in each of these cases there is something very important pulling you out of your career, rather than simple factors such as stress, boredom and time pressure which simply push you away from the daily routine. The point here is that you are more likely to really want and enjoy a career break if you have a constructive plan of how you will spend your break time.
A career break: benefits from taking it
Taking some time out from your work to do something that you really enjoy may help you obtain a fresh perspective on life. It may allow you to recharge your batteries and return to your current job with a renewed enthusiasm. Depending on how you will spend your time, you may develop newer skills which may enhance your ability to carry out your tasks. You might broaden your personal horizons through travel (which is the most intense learning activity), or improve your physical and psychological health by not working so hard, or make a spiritually rewarding contribution to your community by volunteering in a social program or a non-governmental organization, or explore your creative side by doing something you are proud of, like painting or writing, or building a boat. There are many benefits attached to taking a few months or a year for yourself, that is, a career break. But it is a very important decision which needs to be carefully weighed as the consequences may be bad sometimes.
Are career breaks really accepted?
Believe it or not, many large companies may have policies for staff wishing to take career breaks. These policies may guarantee a job to return to, as well as some continuation of service and certain benefits, like your pension. Make sure to read the small print and consider if you are comfortable with how your job-related benefits will be affected.
If no career break policy happens to exist at your workplace, don’t worry too much. You can try talking to your employer, because you may be able to reach an arrangement, but make sure this is on paper. It will depend on how nice your employer is, how long you request to be away for, and how valuable you have become as an employee. Some factors such as the length of your service so far, and your proved skills, may be very relevant here.
If your employer proves to be unsympathetic to your career break request, and you are still determined that you want to take a career break, you may then choose to take a chance and just resign, hoping that you can either get your old job back or a obtain similar one when you finish your break. This option clearly requires a great deal of thought beforehand and threfore it should not be taken lightly. However, depending on what you actually spend your career break, your priorities and your future plans may change, and you could decide that you want a change in your next job anyway. Think very carefully before you take this course of action, and take deep advice from family and loved ones who may be directly affected by your decision, or who may be more experienced at this (for instance, your parents may have a longer career experience and give you a sound advice).
Anyway, can you afford a career break?
In any of the scenarios discussed above, you clearly will not be receiving your regular salary during the months of your career break. That means you will need to plan ahead and make sure that you can fund your sabbatical and maintain your current financial commitments. This you may achieve by saving up in advance, by relying on private means, by getting a loan or by taking other paid work. Also bear in mind that during the time you’ll be away from your job, colleagues, processes, policies and systems will change, and therefore you may need to renew your skills, increase your knowledge and catch up on the developments that you have missed during your break.
How you may benefit from a career break or a sabbatical year
A career break shouldn’t be equal to a very long holiday. It is a period for profound reflexion on your career and your life. It is a time for enriching travelling, acquisition of further knowledge and important skills, and development of inner wisdom. It may also be a time to be closer to your family, to see your children grow up or to give some time to your elderly parents. It is in any case just a break, not an early retirement from active life. You should be ready for your comeback or you may get stuck in your break. You should be aware of movements and changes in your company or your whole industry. And you should learn about new developments, tools or strategies. You shouldn’t just settle in a faraway island (and your living room might be that island) and fully isolate from your own reality, or you might end up totally displaced when you finish your career break. Read more on career break options.