Making The Most of Your Career Break
Career breaks offer the opportunity to rejuvenate both professionally and personally
In an episode of our Everyday Leader podcast, Doris Muigei shared how using strategic pauses throughout your career can help you realign your career with your purpose. After working for a number of years, Doris decided to pursue a 1-year Master’s in the UK to up-skill herself in management. She also used this time to reflect on the direction of her career. She thought about the problems she had come across herself when she was just starting her career and realized that she wanted to help solve those problems for others like herself. This led her to take a role with Shortlist and then later with Yusudi.
Doris also shared how sometimes slowing down can help you move forward, reflecting on a time when she did not have the awareness that she should take more time to pause. After some guidance from her team, she eventually decided to take a year off from working to really reset.
Career breaks are becoming more common than ever. Whether a career break is a personal choice or necessitated because of family or health reasons, there are ways you can make this time more wholesome and have a smooth transition back. Regardless of the reasons, career breaks can offer great new perspectives to the individuals and provide a way to rediscover your why. Here are several ways to help you make the the most of your time off:
Build and Maintain your network: It’s normal to experience some level of social isolation when you are away from your colleagues. You can however minimize this by intentionally staying in touch with them as well as continuing to build your network. When the time comes, whether you need a tip on a job opening or referrals, your former colleagues could come in handy. You can also broaden your network by connecting with peers in the same industry. Attend events to stay up to speed with what’s new, and subscribe to publications, newsletters, or podcasts to help you stay up to date. Opening yourself up to making new connections also exposes you to the “hidden job market.” It is estimated that 70% of jobs are never advertised, hence you are more likely to hear about opportunities the more active you are in your network.
Learn a new skill: Being on a career break does not mean the learning stops. Aside from keeping up with trends in your industry, take time to brush up on your skills. If you are considering a career shift, this is a good time to figure out what skills or qualifications you would need to propel you to your next level. Luckily there are more study options available now than ever. You have options ranging from short courses, distant learning, on-the-job training, and in-person classroom setting among others. One way you can get started is by taking a look at some job adverts for the roles you are looking to get into, map out the key skills employers are looking for, and start learning!
Practice mentorship: Chances are by the time you’re taking a career break, you have a number of years of work experience in the bag and you’ve built some solid skills. One way you could spend some part of your break is by mentoring others. You may have more time to have regular conversations with mentees than before. You can take this opportunity to share your knowledge with individuals who are in the early stages of their careers. Aside from the rewarding feeling of giving back, you also build soft skills such as self-awareness, communication, leadership, and active listening.
Own your story: Only you can tell your story. Take time to shape the narrative of your break by taking stock of the skills you have gained over this period and before. Think about the kind of work you want to do going forward, the type of organizations you want to work for, and what you need to do to get there. During interviews, don't be afraid to provide context about your break, what you have learned, and what you can bring to the organization. A recent LinkedIn survey showed that 51% of hiring managers are more likely to contact candidates who are open about their breaks. Do your research on salary ranges so you can avoid short-changing yourself during salary negotiations as well.
Work with a coach: Getting back to work after a long period of time can be daunting, but working with a coach can help. You may be unsure about the right way of explaining your career gap and the reasons behind it or may suffer from a loss of confidence as a result. Coaching can help you redefine your purpose and gain clarity on the direction you want to take in the next stage of your career. The confidential nature of coaching also allows you to be vulnerable and open as you work your way through setting goals and making more informed decisions about your career.