Taking a Career Break For Dummies
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Taking a career break can be a transformative experience that paves the way to a happier and more fulfilling life. This Cheat Sheet provides guidance on designing a plan for your break and exploring the potential benefits of this time off.

If you’re unsure about taking the leap, you’ll also find considerations that will help you decide if a break is the right path for you.

Five prompts for deciding whether to take a career break

If you’re contemplating taking a break, use the following journaling prompts to connect to your desire and assess whether the risk is worth the reward.  Your answers will reveal the truth about your fear and concerns and help you see things more clearly, so you can make an informed decision.

  • Why do I want a break so badly?
  • What does my break need to have or do for me to feel that it was worthwhile?
  • What are five positive outcomes that could arise if I take a break?
  • Why might it be a bad idea to stay in my current situation and not take a break?
  • If I were brave enough, I’d ___.

5 benefits of having a career break plan

There are a lot of great reasons to develop a plan or structure for your break before making the leap. Here are several ways having a solid career break plan can benefit you:

  • A plan can build confidence and reduce stress. When you’ve thought through the key details, your break will seem less uncertain and overwhelming.
  • A plan can help you achieve the best possible outcome. Taking time to proactively plan for your success and set a budget and timeline will greatly increase your odds of having a fantastic experience.
  • A plan will reveal your ideal timeline. After you’ve mapped out your plan, you’ll have a much better understanding of how soon you can start, which helps to determine your ideal timing.
  • A plan will reduce your financial risk and ensure you have adequate support. Creating an estimate for your overall expenses will help you avoid running out of money or jeopardizing your financial wellness. Plus, you can proactively make a plan that includes a cushion for emergencies.
  • A plan will increase your enjoyment of the break experience. Creating a plan to manage the most stressful parts of a break (time, money, etc.) will help you relax more deeply and enjoy the experience.

5 steps to designing your career break plan

Having a plan is incredibly helpful when it comes to taking an extended career break. You can keep it simple; there’s no need to overcomplicate things.

If you follow these five steps, you’ll develop a solid structure for your break that allows you to stay grounded, helps you adapt to unexpected changes, and guides you toward a successful outcome:

  1. Get clear on your purpose. When you can clearly articulate  why you need and want a break, others are better able to understand and support you on this journey. Plus, your purpose will reveal your personal definition of success and ensure you can achieve it.
  2. Determine your career break themes. What do you most need to get out of this experience to feel like it was successful? Choose the three to four themes (pillars) you’ll focus on during the break. Your themes will help you achieve your purpose.
  3. Estimate the overall cost. Create a ballpark number for what your break will cost. This number will reveal how close you are to your goal of taking a break and inform your timeline. It will also help you set a budget for your break.
  4. Draft your timeline. Map out key dates to decide when you’ll give your notice and take other big steps like ending a lease, finding a tenant, selling your belongings, and so on.
  5. Plan for your re-entry. Don’t forget to set aside time and money for the end of your break. You’ll need time to process your experience, set your next goal, and rejoin the workforce, without panicking about finding your next job.

10 common career break themes

I encourage you to choose three to four themes  for your break. Consider your deepest desires and needs for the break and reflect on what you want to get out of this experience. By pursuing your themes, you’ll ensure a successful experience. To help you get started, here are ten common career break themes:

  • Connection
  • Community
  • Create a new lifestyle
  • Establish a new career path
  • Explore
  • Joy immersion
  • Learn
  • Reconnect (to self)
  • Restore
  • Heal

Be sure to choose specific words that resonate with you and represent your specific career break themes. For example, instead of restore, you might choose nourish, recover, relax, or rest.

5 ways a career break or sabbatical can improve your life

A break can enhance and improve your life in so many ways. Here are five great examples:

  • It will allow you to fully recharge. No more running around with a permanently low battery, feeling depleted, even after a few days off or a long weekend.
  • It can revive your zest for life. No more wondering “is this all there is for me?” You’ll regain your inspiration and appreciation for the life you’ve worked so hard to create.
  • It can improve your physical and mental well-being. Creating a healthier mind and body will make the rest of your life better — talk about long-term benefits!
  • It can restore your confidence. If you feel like you’ve lost your edge, or your sense of self, a break can help you bring your sparkle back and remember how amazing you really are.
  • It can give you a new perspective on life and shift your priorities. You’ll redefine your self-identity and discover who you are separate of the work you do. You’ll also have time to reflect on your values and realign your life accordingly.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Katrina McGhee is a career break and sabbatical expert, author, speaker and certified master coach with an MBA. With her wealth of knowledge and experience, Katrina helps mid-career professionals design transformative life breaks that lead to happiness, personal growth and lasting change.

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