- Career gaps happen for all types of reasons. Figure out what works in your life and set a foundation.
- Weigh your options carefully and create a concrete plan. Not every vacation will look the same.
- Plan and delegate finances before the break begins.
- Ease back into your career with the same pace and comfortability that you eased out of it.
You know that feeling when you've had a really stressful day, and lunch just can't come quick enough? Imagine that, but on a grander scale -- when going to lunch and not coming back is looking ideal. That's when you need an extended coffee break.
According to the American Institute of Stress, 46 percent of stress comes from a heavy workload, and another 20 percent stems from a poor work/life balance. Maybe that's why 84 percent of Millennials plan on taking an extended vacation from their careers. Doing so doesn't mean walking away from your position forever, but it can help you understand why you're so stressed and what can be done to fix it.
There are a number of reasons to take a career furlough, each one with different motivations and goals. While the reasons are nearly limitless, a few of the common ones include health and wellness necessities, maternity leave, pursuing passion projects and traveling (for reasons other than hosting or attending a meeting).
Career breaks come in all shapes and sizes but share some common threads: freedom and flexibility. Figuring out if one is right for you and how realistic it is will require careful planning and vetting on your part.
How to Plan for a Career Break
- Determine your inspiration for taking an extended work vacation and weigh the pros and cons. For example, if your goal is to master a new skill, you might argue that learning stimulates brain-cell growth and keeps you sharp (pro). On the other hand, if your place of business doesn't reimburse for education leave (con), you'll need to do some number crunching to determine if the gap is feasible.
- Understand that a work break requires thorough planning, but with the right design, it is totally doable.
- Calculate the costs, taking into account that 401(k), Social Security and other direct deposits might be impacted.
- Consider social implications beforehand and ensure dependents can and will be cared for (financially or otherwise) and/or can come with you.
- Update insurance policies. Make sure you have life, health and travel insurance, as needed.
Extended Vacation Guidelines
- Set a date and duration for your sabbatical. "Someday" is not a viable option.
- If possible, tie the break to a life event. It makes the event easier to track and provides a psychological push (e.g., "I'll take a six-month break to travel the world before my 40th birthday").
- Allow for wiggle room. Your initial date is just a starting point that can be revised.
- Discuss the extended leave with someone close. Mention it during everyday conversations and seek feedback. This helps you to get valuable input, build support and keeps you from backing out.
Easing Into It
- Disclaimer: Expect last-minute cold feet.
- Consider inching into the new lifestyle. Take two days off each week for the last few weeks to "test drive" your extended leave.
- Plan in detail the first few weeks off.
- Make a conscious attempt to socialize. No good will come from using the break to isolate.
More on Finances
- If debt plays a factor in your situation, weigh the possibility of paying it off before the break. If that's out of the question, act responsibly. Determine how to continue paying off the debt during the absenteeism. At the very least, ensure you won't add new financial holes because of your break.
- Put aside enough funds to pay yourself a salary while away from the office.
- Establish possibilities for a stream of side income (investment dividends, freelance work, website revenue, etc.).
- Adjust your spending habits as early as possible when appropriate and necessary.
Life After a Career Break
- Reestablish your routine. A proper routine helps keep stress and anxiety levels at bay.
- Update your résumé with any significant skills learned, titles achieved or travel taken.
- Keep wellness a top priority by taking small breaks when needed. Just as you eased into the career break, don't be afraid to ease out of it.