Worried What Others Think of Your Career Break Plans
We hear it often that one of the biggest decisions career breakers make is when do they come out of the “career break closet” to family and friends. A big concern is that they won’t be supportive of the decision – and not everyone will be. So how do you cope with that?
Katie recently “came out” to her family and friends and shares with us their reactions and how she has dealt with it. (Katie’s last name is being withheld because she has yet to give notice to her employer).
How long have you been planning for and what inspired your career break?
I have always loved to travel, but usually in 2 weeks stints. The idea to take a break and travel for several months first popped into my head about 5 years ago when I was thinking about leaving the practice of law and changing careers (possibly a career in travel). It was a very fleeting thought and I didn’t think about it again until about 3 years later after I had gone through a tough breakup, become disillusioned with my second career and realized I just wasn’t that happy in Chicago. I started thinking about moving back home to Minnesota and decided to take the summer of 2010 off to travel before finding a job in the Twin Cities.
Then, I was offered a promotion at work and it just made sense to put everything off until 2011. Since I was postponing everything, I decided I might as well make it a year-long trip. And after some more thought, I realized I didn’t necessarily want to end up back in Minnesota and that I wanted to try a career in travel, wherever that might take me.
I put my condo on the market in December and figured I’d set a departure date once it sold. But after a heart-to-heart with my realtor in February, I realized the likelihood of it selling at a price I could afford was about zero. I also realized I just didn’t want to wait any longer – I needed to start moving forward. So I decided to go with Plan B – trying to rent it out – and set a departure date of August 30, 2011 – my 35th birthday!
What was the reaction of your friends and family when you shared your news?
I was very nervous to tell my parents, afraid that they would be disappointed in my decision. To my great relief, they were very supportive (I think it helped that I initially told them in the context of moving back to Minnesota). When I officially announced a departure date, though, I think they were surprised. I had been talking about it for so long, I suspect they didn’t really think I would go through with it.
When I initially started thinking about taking a break to travel, I told friends gradually, but when I finally set a departure date, I sent a mass email out announcing it. I got a slew of “that’s great, I wish I could do that” responses and I know many friends are genuinely very excited for me. But I was disappointed that many others did not show much enthusiasm or even questioned my decision to do this. It was interesting to see the different responses among from my friends because it wasn’t always what I expected.
Have they been supportive of your decision?
Luckily, my parents have been very supportive. I got my travel bug from my dad, who traveled all over the world for business when I was growing up. And my mom knows very well what it’s like to be stuck in a career you don’t enjoy, so she thinks it is great I am pursuing a happier life.
For the most part, my friends have been supportive, although it has been hard at times. I’ve had to cut back my social life quite a bit in order to save money and I know some are definitely tired of hearing me say I can’t do something because of the cost (and some have just stopped inviting me out!). The best part has been friends who have said they’d love to do something like this too and have been inspired by my decision.
How have you dealt with those who have not been as supportive of your plans?
I have really learned who my real friends are. I have drifted from several – it has become clear that we are just in different places in our lives now and I feel like they don’t understand or really support what I’m doing. But I have also made some great new, like-minded friends – through events like Meet, Plan, Go!, online through blogging and Twitter and even through taking improv classes. The key has been surrounding myself with the positive, supportive people!
What advice would you have for others who may not have the support they would like while planning a career break?
Building a support system is crucial. With less than four months to go until my departure, I am feeling stressed, panicked, emotionally drained and overwhelmed. I have always been very responsible, playing things safe and planning everything down to the smallest detail. Planning this trip involves so many unknowns and so many things over which I have little control – it is very scary. What if I can’t find a tenant for my condo? What if I don’t find a job when I return? What if I end up bankrupt and homeless? If I didn’t have the support and encouragement from my parents and from friends, old and new, I’m not sure I’d be going through with this.
I definitely recommend getting involved with Meet, Plan, Go! – it can be a great way to meet others in your city who have already taken career breaks or are in the process of planning one. Take advantage of the internet. Travel blogs can be a source of inspiration, encouragement and great advice. Connecting with other travelers and career breakers on Twitter, Facebook and email is a great way to build a support system. Finally, if you can, start your own blog and share your preparation with the world. I have not been able to share my plans on my blog yet, but I am counting the days until I finally give notice and can go public with everything!