At some point during your career, you may have considered quitting your job and going on an extended 6-month vacation with no backup plan. You may have dreamed about ditching your 9-5 routine and backpacking across Europe or Asia, ticking off as many things on your bucket list as possible. And why not? Life is short, right?
While this might sound far-fetched, doing something out of the norm and taking a break from your career may actually boost your resume and professional development in unimaginable ways. Certainly, there are serious discussions that need to be had, and financial preparations that need to be made, but the benefits of a well-planned break can give you exposure to unique experiences that make you a better employee—or boss—upon your return.
So, what exactly is a career break? Sometimes a career break is an extended leave of absence that can be negotiated with your current employer. Other times, it’s a risk into the unknown—you’ll look for a job after your career break, either in the same vocation or, surprise… doing something entirely different. If you’re still on the fence about how a career break can benefit you, read on for some reasons why you might want to make it your next step in your career.
In today’s global economy, it’s highly advantageous to have international experience of some kind, whether it’s studying or working abroad. The exposure you’ll gain from living in different cultures will help you become adaptable to new situations, forge creative connections, and view challenges from a different perspective. If you’ve decided to travel extensively during your career break, take detailed notes during your trip and gain expertise in a certain region of the world. You could also explore opportunities to volunteer with groups such as Habitat for Humanity. And there are always numerous English teaching jobs around the world that will pay for your room and board.
Learn a new language
Chances are, most of us were required to take a foreign language class in high school, but when was the last time we actually used it? Use your career break to brush up on your high school Spanish or French or German, or learn a new language completely. Of course, the best way to become proficient in a language is to actually speak it on a daily basis living in a foreign country. When you’re ready to return to the workforce armed with your newfound language skills, you’ll be an asset to your employer.
Start a business or organization
If part of the reason you’re taking a career break is because you can’t stand working for someone else, why not try being your own boss? The mental shift you’ll have to make from employee to entrepreneur is a big one, but you’ll gain so many skills from it that will make you even more marketable if you do decide to return to the workforce later as an employee. Perhaps you’ve considered starting a non-profit organization to help the less fortunate in your area? The networking skills you’ll develop from building something like that will help you no matter what you decide to do after your career break.
There are a multitude of ways to spend your time off—from bicycling across the United States to enrolling in an intensive course at a local college—the sky is the limit! The most important part of planning a career break is to keep the end in mind and to treat it seriously like a full-time job. A career break spent entirely sitting on the couch watching Netflix might raise some eyebrows, but one that is well-planned will reward you with numerous stories and skills to bring to your future employer, when you’re ready of course.