It may be that you have decided to leave your job, either to change career or move to a new opportunity. Perhaps you’ve been made redundant, or lost your job suddenly. It could be that you’re planning to return to work after raising a family or looking after sick relatives, in need of some “me” time before getting stuck back in. You may be over the moon or you may be carrying the baggage and loss of direction & confidence that can come with job loss.
Regardless of where you sit in the above, my advice is if you can, seize the opportunity to take a break and do something amazing before moving onto the next phase of your professional journey. I did and I cannot sell the benefits of doing this enough – I took 4 months out (so far…) and I feel fabulous.
When I decided to take a break, it was exciting and terrifying. I’m career focussed, love working and what I do (the majority of the time). I’d worked for the last 20 years in high pressured environments, long hours in and out of the office, travelling frequently with little time to myself. Life had been particularly stressful for the previous 2 years – leaving me stretched personally and professionally. I was ready for a recharge.
The only person who can make good things happen in your life is you, and the greatest threat to that is your mindset.
My mantra is to take a positive out of every negative – it takes work, but it is worth it. Just stay positive (with a healthy level of realism / cynicism) and never give up.
It’s ok to take a little time to reflect when sh*t happens – but you need to then pick yourself up, dust yourself off and do something amazing!
The one thing I was 100% sure of was I wanted to make the most of it. Ideally without bankrupting myself in the process and enabling as smooth as possible transition back into the working world when the time came. Most importantly I didn’t want to look back and feel I’d wasted the opportunity to have an adventure.
It felt overwhelming. I didn’t know where to start, I had no idea how I’d fill my time and how I’d feel without the sense of purpose and achievement that work gives you. I had a financial buffer that would allow me to take a few months out, but not enough of a buffer to be completely without a plan.
I decided to share my experience and how I went about what for me was a scary step – in the hope that it’ll be interesting or useful to anyone else considering a career break / adventure.
I started by asking myself one question: What do I want from a career break?
It’s important you know what you want to achieve with your break, why you need it, what you’re trying to fix / accomplish.
I knew my main focus was to decompress, reflect, relax and plan the next phase of my professional life.
I wanted to get on top of some things, get jobs done at home, spend time with friends, family and on myself. I wanted to re-discover and enjoy where I live, pick up old discarded hobbies, maybe some new ones & travel. I didn’t want to neglect my brain and it was important to me to keep a little focus on my professional development and be ready when the time came to move the focus back to my career.
If you’re like me there are a million things you want to do and see – there will never be enough time to do it all, and it is easy to get carried away planning a million things that would take years to achieve.
I quickly realised I needed to pinpoint exactly what I wanted most from the time.
So, I made a plan
I’m not talking about a detailed day by day plan as that takes the fun out it, and becomes a stresser itself, but a rough idea of: Time v. Plans v. Budget is essential. You can plan in more detail as you need to.
Remember – all good plans are made to move. Allow yourself flexibility to take advantage of how your mindset may change as you unwind from the day to day pressures of the working world. Don’t stress if halfway through you decide to turn your plan on its head, that’s all part of the fun – just adjust the plan and carry on enjoying your adventure.
To tackle starting a plan my first considerations were:
- How long
- What can I afford
- What exactly do I want to do
I’d worked out there are effectively 3 clear stages to a successful career break, so I planned a loose timeline: 1 Plan and get sh*t done (4/6 weeks), 2 Fun/Adventure (8/10 weeks), 3 Getting back to normal (4 weeks).
Remember, it’s not just the Fun stage that is the main event – make sure you fit fun in throughout and you don’t get bogged down sorting your life out & planning. Only spend as much time as you need to planning. I spent a lot of time meeting with friends & family for lunch/dinner/drinks, getting out and about. Generally doing things I enjoy while working my way through my list of jobs & planning, having my adventure and getting back to normal. It was empowering and freeing to have the flexibility and time to do what I wanted, when I wanted – no matter if it was between 9am and 6pm Mon to Fri!
I followed my plan and it’s been awesome
My plan flexed and moved as time went along, as any good plan should, and it may flex and move some more before I’m finished – but as I said, that’s all part of the fun!
I spent the first few weeks of my break planning, organising and doing those jobs that had fallen by the wayside. I spent time diy’ing and re-decorating at home. Plan and get sh*t done.
For me this was a big part of switching off, it was exciting working out what to do with my break. It felt awesome knowing that all the jobs and little things I had wanted to get on top of were done and I was organised.
I whittled a long list of things I wanted to do into a realistic plan for some Fun/Adventure. The main objective was to do some travelling and I got stuck into planning out a trip across Europe (Blog posts en route!).
I spent time mulling over the end point of the break, the Getting back to normal stage. Part of this up-front planning became working out what I needed to do when I was ready to get back on track with my career. I work in Technology and things move fast. Before getting back on the horse I wanted to make sure I was fully up to speed and ready to hit the ground running.
Then I went on an adventure and forgot about it until very recently.
Thinking ahead about the end, and putting some rough plans together for professional development and job hunting meant I didn’t need to think about it again until the time came and I could fully switch off, relax & enjoy.
I’m in the Getting back to normal stage now (with a small amount of denial lingering about the end of *this* adventure…) and I feel awesome. I’ve got a few opportunities in front of me, and I’m enjoying getting my head back in the game.
I’m on top of my life – I love feeling organised. My home is looking and feeling good, I’ve reconnected with old friends and spent time with friends and family.
I’ve seen amazing & diverse places having just returned from a 10 week trip through the UK, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Slovenia, Austria, Germany, Netherlands and Belgium – with a firm plan to see more of the world, and re-visit some of the amazing places I really just scratched the surface of.
I’ve read books, gone to festivals, painted, gone out on my bike, walked for miles, gone rafting & paddle boarding, swam in the sea, rivers & lakes. I’ve seen brown bears in the wild, had near misses with a wild boar and snakes. I’ve flown through a stunning valley 200 feet off the ground on a 60mph zipline.
I feel more alive and myself than I have in years.
After spending spending time getting back to basics and having fun without work to distract, you will dive back into your career revitalised, full of energy with the right perspective / balance to take you forward. If you can, do it.