Giving up work doesn’t have to mean forever. For some people, the real dream is taking some time out between jobs – perhaps as an opportunity to get your head together, to spend time with the family or to pursue a passion project.
Depending on how expensive your monthly outgoings are, this can actually be a feasible option for many people. For some, it may even make good financial sense, as it gives you time to set up a second income stream. But that doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone. There are several things to consider before you power down your work PC and step into the great unknown.
Income and expenses
The most obvious concern is how you’re going to pay for your lifestyle while you’re between jobs. This will be a combination of finding an alternative source of income and cutting down on your expenses.
Let’s take income first. Ideally, before taking a career break, you’d spend time building up savings with this specific purpose in mind. This would mean you could avoid cutting into your emergency fund. Calculating a savings goal is simple enough, as you’ll just need to add up your expenses per month and multiply that by the number of months You’re having off.
Sometimes, though, saving isn’t possible – life gets in the way. In this case, you’ll need to find another way to make money. This may mean freelancing based on the skills you have from your career (or a hobby). Alternatively, you could find a part time job that still gives you the time or thinking space you’re looking for. Finally, look for ways to cut your expenses down. Even seemingly small things, like switching your usual food brands to cheaper equivalents, all add up over time.
Potential career impact
Things change pretty rapidly in a lot of industries, so the job you leave may look very different by the time you go back. In particular, those who work in industries with a lot of hard skills – systems and software that you need to understand, for instance – should consider how to keep up with any changes while not actively working.
Modern employers are a lot more open to alternative paths, so spending some time pursuing your own interests shouldn’t put you out of the running when you start looking for a new job. However, you should be prepared to explain how you’re kept your skills up to scratch.
Of course, depending on how you use your career break, it could be excellent for your long-term work ambitions. Taking a break in order to evaluate your goals or to build your skills can be a very rewarding experience. You could also consider volunteering as a way to build up skills in a new area. Some people find that a short break can help them get a career back on track. This is particularly true if you’re looking at moving into a new industry.
Is a career break right for me?
If you’re questioning whether you really want to go through with it, then a career break may not be your best option. Changing to a new role, taking a sabbatical or even simply going on a long holiday could be other options for refreshing your life. On the other hand, those who feel that a break from working would do them the world of good should work through the practical implications. It may not be as big of a challenge as you think.