Career Break Doesn’t Equal Career Suicide

In the post “Lisa Lubin’s New Business Card” Lisa shared with us how her career break didn’t hurt her career. It in fact enhanced it and has now opened up more career opportunities.

And this is one of the topics that came up when the New York City panel for Meet, Plan, Go! got together to brainstorm what we would discuss at our recent event. We wanted to touch on “Why don’t more people take career breaks?” and in our encounters one of those reasons is career related.

MPGNYC Panelists

So what did our panel have to say about career fears?

Brook Silva-Braga (A Map for Saturday) – More Broadly Educated
First off, there WILL be job openings when you come home and your trip can certainly be positioned as a resume builder (which may or may not be BS) but without doubt the trip will make you a more broadly educated person, someone who can hold an intelligent conversation on more topics. Your geography will be better, your understanding of foreign markets will improve, your ability to relate to people of diverse backgrounds will be developed. In short, you will be a better, more attractive employee in virtually any field.

Jennifer Baggett (The Lost Girls) – Be Strategic
Although New Yorkers tend to have a bit overachieving/workaholic tendencies, many had traveled before or taken huge risks in their life (including moving to the city in the first place), so there was a certain respect level of my decision among my work peers – and a lot of friendly jealousy as most of them fantasized about doing the same thing.

Of course even though my bosses were really supportive (they even said they’d hold my job if I came back after only 3 months and would at least help me look for work if I stayed gone the full year), I still worried that I might be committing career suicide. But I think there were two main factors that ensured that didn’t happen: First, I was strategic about when I chose to leave. I had been in the TV industry long enough to have laid a solid foundation for a successful career/had established a good reputation in the industry and was at a position level where it made it easier to take a bit of time off. And second, I was able to do things on the road that ended up being marketable skills/filled the travel gap on my resume (having an award-winning travel blog, writing articles for magazines, volunteering, etc…).

Michael Bontempi (Briefcase to Backpack) – Return with Confidence
Worrying is not how I would categorize the feeling upon my return. If anything, I was clearer about the path I wanted to take, the role I was looking for and the type of companies I wanted to work for.  My head was clearer which made me more confident in my ability to explain my work experience and qualifications.

Also, for me it depends how you define the word career. For this question I would ask, what is more worrisome – the person who invests time in themselves trying to find the right career, or the person who looks back on their past career and says ” You know what I always wanted to do or be?”

Sadly I know a lot more people in the latter category.

Sherry Ott (OttsWorld) – Real Life MBA
I was in a career that I wasn’t in love with, but timing and good luck put me on the path to IT back when I was 22.  Fourteen years of not loving it, but loving the salary, and climbing the ladder. Then I realized I hated the ladder; and it all changed.

I left my career with no plan of what I would do when I came back, just hoping it all would organically come to me. After breaking free from the confines of the cube and corporate mentality, I was able to finally think, be creative, and open my eyes to different ways of making a living.  Everyone gets their MBA, but I think a hands-on global experience can set you apart from others in the workforce. I’ve NEVER met a person who has taken a career break to travel and not been able to find a job upon returning…NEVER. The great thing about world travel is that you learn how to be flexible, scrappy, patient, and creative…all of this is needed to find a job, it’s not easy…but neither is traveling in the Gobi Desert by camel cart.

Brian Peters (No Debt World Travel) – Don’t Burn Bridges
I was open to anything that would happen to me career-wise. I will say never, ever burn bridges. The same people you work with now will be your best points of contact if you decide to come home and look for work. If they like you and trust you, they will keep their eyes and ears open. Most jobs are found through connections and word of mouth. This is even more the case if you’ve been out the country for an extended period of time.

Marie Elena Martinez (Marie’s World) – Similar Field, Different Career
[Similar to Brian Peters – Don’t Burn Bridges] It was through a maintenance of my PR contacts and book world contacts that I’m back in media, though on the creative side.  All of my old colleagues have helped me launch a writing career. I’m indebted to them and their support.

Michaela Potter (Briefcase to Backpack) – Career Transition
I’ve planned my career breaks around times when I was ready to change or move onto a new career. So I used the break in between to travel. During my first break in 2001, I already had a consulting gig lined up and they knew that I would be traveling for three months when they offered me the job. In 2006, I was ready to go back to the non-profit world, but first volunteered in Peru for that summer. That experience led me to get a job in the international volunteer industry. And after our break in 2007, I decided to finally pursue a freelance career.

What are your career fears?



Other comments

7 Comments on "Career Break Doesn’t Equal Career Suicide"

  1. Tweets that mention Career Break Doesn't Equal Career Suicide | Briefcase to Backpack - Travel Advice for Career Breaks or Sabbaticals -- Topsy.com on Fri, 24th Sep 2010 6:40 am 

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Sherry Ott, Sherry Ott, BriefcasetoBackpack, Greenheart Travel, Marie Elena Martinez and others. Marie Elena Martinez said: RT @CareerBreakHQs: Career break doesn't = career suicide. See what our #meetplango #nyc panel have to say about it http://su.pr/8FyoBs [...]

  2. Amy on Sat, 25th Sep 2010 10:54 pm 

    When my husband first mentioned this harebrained idea of traveling the world to me, I was reluctant because of the career issue, even though the reality was I probably was going to make a career change anyway. In the beginning, when I read travel blogs, I always jumped to the end to find out what happened when people got back. And everyone always moved on with their lives and found a way to support themselves. Most people even were happier with their new or old careers when they returned. The above tidbits are great!

  3. Alonna on Sun, 3rd Oct 2010 10:04 am 

    Another option is to ask for a Leave of Absence from your job (assuming you like it and want to return). I was able to get a 1-year unpaid personal leave. This came after 6 years of good work and proving myself as a valuable employee.

    Although I did return to my previous job after my career break, I immediately started job searching anyway because my husband and I wanted to relocate. I agree with Michael about having a better idea of what I was looking for, and more confidence in selling myself in interviews. After 3 months of searching I had 2 job offers, despite the economy and my career absence.

    To avoid career suicide you need two things: 1) confidence in yourself and your ability to get a new job, and 2) a realization that your career isn’t your life.

  4. Alexis Grant on Mon, 4th Oct 2010 8:33 pm 

    Excellent post! This is so true. If you *target* your career break, it can both boost your resume and feel more rewarding. We learn useful skills while traveling, in addition to understanding what makes people in other parts of the world tick.

  5. Go vs. Stay – Seeking an Adventurous Life in the Midst of a Stable One | AirTreks Travel Blog on Thu, 7th Oct 2010 6:18 pm 

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  6. Danny on Fri, 7th Jan 2011 3:17 pm 

    It’s great to hear of success in this department as we return from 2 years on the road. The biggest challenge I’m faced with right now though is finding a direction with which to begin that job search. c’est la vie

  7. Why Long Term Travel Makes Money Sense | AirTreks Travel Blog on Tue, 31st May 2011 4:44 pm 

    [...] trip can give you, but if you’re worried about your source of income, or what you’ll do when you get back, which just about everyone does, read through some of the motivating articles at Briefcase to [...]

Career Break Guide Table of Contents