In the Career Break Closet
Are you stuck in the closet – afraid to come out and act like you really want to? I bet you are. In fact – I bet about 90% of you are. You are lurking in the dark, afraid to declare your secret desires, but willing to watch; from a safe place.
You are in the career break closet.
Research shows that about 90% of the people who read online media do not actually participate in the conversation; consumption vs. production. That’s fine, I understand, communicating online isn’t for everyone.
However I’m willing to believe that a percentage of that 90% are not lurking because they want to, but because they feel like they have to. They are staying in the closet because they can’t yet let people know about their career break plans. They must stay in the closet in order to remain at their jobs and while they quietly plan their getaway.
Keith and Amy Sutter from Green Around the Globe share their time in the career break closet:
In January of 2009 Amy and I made the big decision, to travel the world for a year. And with all of the excitement and anxiety that comes with such a big decision there was one unpleasant aspect that regularly kept us up at night. We now had a huge secret to keep from everyone we knew. There are practical elements to keeping your decision a secret initially. What if you decide not to do it? What happens if something comes up? A family member gets ill, you get ill. There are any number of potential events that could change your plans. So Amy and I went into the “traveler closet” for 6 months. This meant that as we were doing our initial research, reading books, blogs and anything else we could get our hands on, we had to be sure to keep it all under wraps. When friends came over for dinner we had to spend 10 minutes scanning the condo to make sure an incriminating book was not left laying out.
When we did start telling people, starting with close family we had to bring them into our “circle of trust”. We had to make sure we controlled who knew when. Practically it was to make sure we handled giving notice at our respective workplaces on our terms and in a professional manner. We could not afford, either financially or professional, for word of our plans to leak back to our companies before we were ready. The other reason to control the information is so that we would be the ones to personally tell every one of our family and friends. That reason was selfish, we wanted to be there to see or hear their unfiltered initial reactions. One of the best parts of planning the trip is telling the people you are closest to and getting their reactions.
I completely understand this feeling. When I was planning my career break to begin in September 2006, I actually started the planning a year prior to that. Even though I’ve never been married, I likened the planning process to that of a wedding. After all, most people who take a career break don’t simply decide one day and leave in a week; it takes time to shut down your ‘normal’ life in order to branch off into the adventurous unknown.
My year of being in the closet was one of the hardest I can remember. It was full of self doubt, stress, worry, indecision, and temptation. Only my closest friends knew of my plans as well as my family. I thought it was important to ease my family into the concept of my career break; especially my father.
As it got closer to my departure the really difficult things had to start happening. The ones where you knew there was no turning back…such as telling my landlord and subletting my apartment. It was exhilarating and terrifying all at once.
Then there was work. As an IT manager we were always planning out into the future. When we started having to plan out past my future at the company – and only I knew about it – stress overwhelmed me. The thought of committing to things at work knowing that I would be leaving and would never even see or really care about that project was not as fun as once might think. In fact, my sense of responsibility got the best of me when I started having nightmares about leaving my job…the job I hated.
So – why I am feeding all of your career break closet dwellers stories that will keep you in the closet? I’m telling you this stuff because I WISH there would have been something like Briefcase to Backpack and Meet Plan Go when I was in the closet. Hence, it’s one of the driving reasons why we developed the site and the nationwide event.
Briefcase to Backpack is a safe place where you can actually crack the door of the closet open for a bit and actually speak up; talk about your fears, excitement, plans, and indecision. We’ve all been in your position. You can comment and not use your real name if you want…no one will know! We just want you to know that we, and our community of career break veterans, are here for you to make the transition from Briefcase to Backpack a little easier.
When you can finally tell people, it makes all of the waiting worth it and sometimes it even comes with benefits! Here’s Warren and Betsy Talbot’s story:
When we made the decision to leave our lives in Seattle to travel the world there was a huge question around when I would tell my employer. After all, I would be walking away from a great job as a Director and leaving a career behind. We set the date for 2 years out to give us time to save and sell everything we own, and as a result we were torn between sharing our excitement with others and the fear of being exposed at work. To help relieve some of the pressure we started our Married with Luggage website/blog using the aliases Husband and Wife.
However, the truth is that keeping the secret was something that I knew I could not do until we left. After months of wrestling with the decision, we decided that the pain of keeping the secret was not worth the risk posed by telling everyone. Thus, 14 months before we were set to leave on our multi-year trip around the world, I told my bosses about our plans. The response was overwhelmingly positive and they have all been more supportive than I could have imagined. In the year since telling them I have been promoted, given a new opportunity to drive change, and have been assured that if I ever want to return the door would be open. After so much angst it was an amazing feeling to be able to share my plans with everyone in my life.
Sometimes coming out of the closet can be the best thing for you! If I can even get one of you closet lurkers to speak up, then it will be worth it! Come on…speak up, tell us about your career break dreams and preparations, ask us questions, and feel free to come out of the career break closet for a little while; your in good company.