Top Benefits of a Career Break

I’m happy to report that the term ‘Career Break’ seems to be popping up all over these days! I hope that has a little to do with our upcoming Meet, Plan, Go! event. Regardless of why – we are happy to see people talking, writing, and reporting about them. However, this month’s career break news seems to be a mixed bag of positive and negative! What is a career breaker to believe?!

Let’s start with the disturbing headlines. I woke up and saw this headline in my inbox one day:

Women told to forget about babies if they want to scale career heights
Headhunters’ survey suggests that taking even a few months’ career break for the sake of children will harm prospects of winning a top executive job.
- That’s the message from a new survey, conducted by InterExec, which showed that 53% of those questioned said that women who want a big business post should give up all thoughts of maternity leave – or what they prefer to call a “career break”.

Sure – I know they are talking about a maternity leave career break as opposed to a sabbatical/travel career break – but they are both breaks in your career. If motherhood isn’t an acceptable reason to take a break in your career then it’s going to be darn hard to sell breaking from your career to travel the world. Therefore I put this in the category of disturbing.

However as you consider taking a career break – consider the other point of view – the progressive point of view. Think about how a career break can actually build your skills to find an even better career upon returning. Regardless of why you put your career on pause, the benefits are still the same – you get some time to step away from the rat race and replenish.

Time away from your day to day work and desk duties is necessary. Just take this excerpt from an article about how time away from your cube is the cure for creative blocks.

As Jonah Lehrer writes in a recent Guardian piece, “Several new science papers suggest that getting away – and it doesn’t even matter where you’re going – is an essential habit of effective thinking.” Certainly, we’ve all experienced the feeling that work concerns are just less important the farther away we get from the office. Now there’s proof to back up the classic “out of sight, out of mind” expression.

The article talks about how getting away is essential for effective thinking. But adds more advantages to time away from your cubicle.

“Going even further, another study sparked by the productivity of expats like Nabokov, Hemingway, Yeats, Picasso, Gaugin, and Handel showed that not just traveling but living abroad for an extended period of time can improve our capacities for problem solving and creative thinking.”

Last I checked, employers are looking for great problem solvers and creative thinkers! So don’t hesitate to talk about these enhanced skills in your interview. You were actually expanding your skillsets when you were traveling or living abroad. Believe it. Promote it.

The real key to re-entry back into the workforce is BELIEVING that a career break is a positive career enhancing experience. If you don’t believe that yourself, then you’ll be eaten alive in your interview.

So I challenge you to forget about the first article about maternity ‘career breaks’ and focus on this one…the one that provides you the fuel for your interviews!

Here’s more ammo for your interview as you re-enter the workforce:

“It turns out that being exposed to cultures that function differently from our own – from language to social customs to public transport – awakens the brain, alerting it to a much broader range of possibilities for being, living, and making.”

So while most people are sitting at their cube year after year turning their brains to corporate mush, you can actually awaken yours by traveling!

What other skills do you think you gain from taking a career break and traveling?  Please share them with us!

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2 Comments on "Top Benefits of a Career Break"

  1. Ryan Fuller on Wed, 25th Aug 2010 12:30 pm 

    Great article. I’d also add that in my experience any company that is adamantly opposed to career breaks (and especially maternity leave!) is very likely not a company that is interested in providing any sort of sustainable career. From what I’ve seen, if you work at a company like that, odds are very high that your work/life balance will just get worse the higher you climb. In my opinion, it’s better to jump ship sooner rather than later; then you can take a break and find a company that is a bit more progressive–there are many fantastic places to work that don’t require you to choose between your career and your life.

    While the consulting firm I used to work at often had very intense hours, they very much valued giving people sabbatical opportunities to recharge/refresh and maternity/paternity leave was sacred. It’s not just because they were being generous, as you describe above, they realized that this would allow them to retain/attract top talent and keep people from getting burnt out. Hopefully more companies will come to this realization–and career breakers can/should help them get there!

    Thanks again for leading the charge! :)

  2. Adam on Mon, 30th Aug 2010 11:31 am 

    It really can go both ways, depending on what career you’re in. My wife and I took a year long career break to travel at the height of the economic downfall. Now we began planning the trip before there was any sign (to the everyday Joe, at least) of what was going to happen to the economy. As we got closer and closer to departure, it seemed as though a career break for both of us would work out in our favor. Both our employers seemed happy that we wanted a break (it meant we saved a few layoffs–possibly our own, but we saved a few jobs nonetheless).

    Upon returning, we both felt that we had grown so much and become more marketable because of our experiences. I was a high school teacher before leaving, and I thought I’d be able to spin our travels into a major positive. The only problem was I never got a chance to explain it to a prospective employer because I never got so much as an interview for a job for this school year. It was quite frustrating, but it did open up other doors for me.

    I am now trying a career switch, and without my travels and renewed love for writing, I never would have thought about trying to become a travel writer. While success and money hasn’t exactly been pouring in, I do love what I am doing and hope to one day make a full time career out of it. While I did (and still do) love teaching, I never felt as though it was my true calling. I truly do feel like writing is what I was meant to do. It’s the thing that feels least like “work” that I’ve ever done, and enjoying your daily work is something that few people really get to experience.

    Now whether or not this ends up being my calling, and whether or not I actually find success with this new venture, I never would have come across it if it wasn’t for my career break.

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