3 Tips for Taking a Career Break — The Right Way

by Miranda Marquit · 4 comments

It’s a growing trend: stepping away from your career for a brief period of time. These “career breaks” are catching on because more people are designing their lives around their own goals and interests.

Some people choose to take a career break to raise a family or care for ailing family members. Others are interested in traveling the world (the so-called mini-retirement). No matter the reason for your career break, it makes sense to take it the right way.

How to Take a Career Break

Leave on Good Terms

Since Americans usually change jobs several times during their life, it’s no surprise when someone leaves a job to go do something else — whatever it may be.

But make sure you leave on good terms. Tie up your loose ends and finish the projects you’re working on. If appropriate, train your replacement. Maintain connections in your old workplace and build out your career network. Make sure you’re still connected to people so that when you’re ready to come back, you’ll know who to contact about job openings and other opportunities.

Keep Up with Trends

Whether you leave the workforce for 15 years to raise your young children, or take a year off to live in another country, don’t fall behind. Read up on industry changes, maintain your certifications, and keep in touch with your network. You can even make it a point to attend a conference each year.

If your field is something that requires ongoing education, consider taking classes or courses. I know someone who took two years off to enjoy life and travel with his family — but he made time to take online technology classes during his travels.

Find Something You Can Put on a Resume

If you leave to take care of your family, try your hand at volunteering, working part-time, or consulting.

One of my traveling friends does consulting and freelance work on the side. Once he decides to re-enter the traditional workforce, he hopes these experiences will help him get a new job.

With a little planning, you can take a break from your career, enjoy your life, and get back to work later — without too much trouble.

Do you want to take a career break? What’s standing in your way?

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  • Lance @ Healthy Wealthy Income says:

    I hired someone who took a “life-break” in the last year. Boy did it take them a long time to get up to speed with technology and industry changes. The training took twice as long and we were about to lose it and terminate their employment, but one day it clicked and now they are one of the top performers in our area. The extra life experience and gratitude for hard work kept them in, it just took extra effort to catch them up.

    It is hard for our H.R. department to look past large work gaps. For those who are re-entering after children or school they understand, but when you are saying, “I just needed a break or just because” well good luck.

    • David Ning says:

      Thanks for sharing your experience Lance. I think the problem is that most people who actually say “I just needed a break or just because” actually lost their job. That, or they are the type of people that aren’t that motivated to work in the first place.

      Good to hear that the person you hired worked out though!

  • If you have the means to cover the break it could be a great refresher/energizer for your career going forward. Certainly need to have the contacts and confidence to do so and get re-employed quickly when you return.

    • David Ning says:

      A short break can be good to get perspective on life and, like you said, get refreshed. Just don’t let the break drag out too long though, or you’ll have a hard time explaining why you were out of the workforce for months/years!

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