An increasing number of people are choosing to take a career break. In the UK alone, more than 90,000 people take some kind of career break every year. Although there seems to be a stigma around taking time out from work, taking a career break is completely normal and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, there are many reasons for taking a career break, such as improving your professional skills, gaining more life experiences and caring for your mental health.
At FDM, we believe more employers should be open-minded and welcome returners to work into their teams. In this article, we’ll explore some of the main benefits of taking a career break and how this can help improve your employability and mental wellbeing. We’ll look at…
- What is a career break?
- Reasons for taking a career break
- Gain a new outlook on life
- Expand your skillset
- Spend quality time with family
- Take a break from toxic work environments
- Reevaluate your career plans
- Get involved in a passion project
- Travel the world
- Focus on your mental health and wellbeing
- Grow your professional network
- How to explain a career break to employers?
What is a career break?
A career break is any unpaid leave from work that lasts longer than 2 months. A career break can be any length of time, from 2 months onwards (even as long as 20 years!); however, they generally last around 6 months. Unlike a sabbatical, you do not typically have a job lined up for your return to work.
Some of the main reasons people may choose to take a career break are to travel, look after their children or have a well-deserved rest, but this will vary from person to person. Find out more about what a career break is and how to prepare for your return to work after a career break.
Reasons for taking a career break
Whether you’re taking a career break for personal reasons or health reasons, there are many benefits to taking some time out to work on yourself. Let’s delve a little deeper into the reasons why some time away from the office could be beneficial for you.
1. Gain a new outlook on life
Taking a career break can help you see life from a different perspective and provide you with some much-needed detachment from your work life. It is often easy to get wrapped up in your profession and allow yourself to live on autopilot, which could result in you missing out on incredible opportunities. For instance, many of us can go for years without changing lines of work or companies, when, in fact, change can be a good thing.
After a few months to think, you may find that you want to change your career direction, apply for senior roles, take some more time out of work or even return to your old company - either way, that’s fine. At least you’ve taken the time to consider your options and find out what you truly want to do with your life.
2. Expand your skillset
If you are looking to expand your skillset, upskill yourself or retrain completely, that’s another reason to take a career break. Without the stresses of work and much more spare time on your hands, you can solely focus your time and energy on training, studying or gaining new qualifications. Whether that’s through higher education, online courses or volunteer work, you can use your break from work to better yourself, improve your future employability and open doors to new opportunities,
3. Spend quality time with family
A healthy work-life balance plays a key role in leading a fulfilling life, and with this, comes the importance of healthy family relationships, too. After all, family comes first. For most, real quality time with family only comes during annual leave, maternity or paternity leave, however, there are many advantages to extending this break and spending more time with family. They’re not little for long so make the most of it! And, the same goes for caring duties, for elderly parents for instance, as this can be a difficult situation to juggle along with work responsibilities.
4. Take a break from toxic work environments
Cronyism, gossip, discrimination, office tension and employee burnout are all signs of a toxic work environment and a clear indication that you should consider leaving your company. Yet, sometimes, it is not so evident. For example, it is not uncommon for employees to blur the line between work and home life, working overtime, on weekends or talking about nothing other than their job outside of the office. This can also indicate an unhealthy work culture.
Working in a toxic environment can be draining and it takes some time to recover from, which is why a career break can be a good idea in this case. Taking a career break gives you time to rest and recuperate before returning to work in a new, positive environment. It can also help create distance between the two jobs, and ensure you don't bring any negative feelings with you along the way.
5. Reevaluate your career plans
You may find yourself in a rut at work, experiencing stagnated progression and lacking motivation in your day-to-day. This is a sign you need to reevaluate and redirect your career plans. Taking a career break can give you time to reflect and reassess your career goals, decide where you want to be in the future and how to get there. This way, you can look back in 10 years’ time and feel accomplished and satisfied with your career choices.
6. Get involved in a passion project
A passion project is anything that you work on, outside of work, that brings you joy and satisfaction. This could be recording a podcast, writing a novel or coding a video game. Whatever you’re interested in, a career break allows you to focus on your passions and gain a sense of self-fulfilment that would otherwise be challenging, if not too much to take on, in addition to your work responsibilities.
7. Travel the world
Taking a travel break from work can be an exciting adventure that brings new learnings and experiences to your life. Think of it as an adult gap year(s) or year abroad! Maybe there’s somewhere you’ve always wanted to travel or, perhaps, you’ve always been interested in living or studying abroad. In this instance, a sabbatical is not typically enough time, and a career break is a more viable option, enabling you to take out as much time as you need. Travelling can widen your horizons, boost your confidence, improve your communication skills and make you a better-rounded person - which may even make you even more employable if you decide to return to the workplace.
8. Focus on your mental health and wellbeing
A career break for health reasons is very common, and the same goes for mental health. Our professional life can take its toll on our mental wellbeing, leading to stress, burnout, sleeping problems and more serious issues. However, it is important to remember that our health should be our top priority over an attractive salary or fancy job title. In some cases, a long weekend or week of annual leave just won’t cut it. A career break can provide a respite from work stress and give you time to reset, gain back your self-motivation and jump back into work with a healthier mindset.
Read our top tips on how to look after your mental health in the workplace.
9. Grow your professional network
Whether you’re just starting your career or well-established in the working world, growing your professional network is key. There are a multitude of ways to grow your network, such as going to face-to-face events and conferences, webinars or connecting with professionals on online platforms, like LinkedIn. Networking can raise your business profile and widen your career prospects through mutual connections, which can help your job hunt if you decide to return to work. Likewise, a solid professional network can be beneficial if you are considering starting your own business venture during your time off.
How to explain a career break to employers?
First and foremost, it is important to remember that taking a career break is nothing to be ashamed of and you don’t need to hide it from your employers. Being open and explaining your career break to potential employers can even work to your advantage and help you impress your interviewer. Here is our advice when it comes to explain a career break to employers:
- List your career break openly on your CV and in your cover letter
- Be prepared to answer questions about your career break during your job interview
- Showcase any role-specific new skills or qualifications you’ve gained during your break from work
- Talk about any life experiences or soft skills you have developed during your time off
- Highlight any events during your time off that show likeable characteristics, such as charity work, hobbies or volunteering
- Speak confidently about your career break and demonstrate to employers that you are not ashamed of it.
Read our blog for more tips on how to explain employment gaps in your CV.
At FDM, we are committed to breaking the stigma around career breaks. In fact, we appreciate candidates who have taken a career break as they can offer fresh ideas, transferable skills and make a fantastic addition to our clients’ teams. We offer specialised careers programmes dedicated to supporting returners looking to update their skill sets and get stuck into a new job with our esteemed clients.
Whether you’ve taken one or thirty years out, we are dedicated to getting you up to speed with all the latest knowledge and equipping you with the skills you need to return back to the office with confidence. In addition to a 7-week intensive training programme, Returners benefit from an extensive range of support and development initiatives to guide them through their journey, including flexible working options, online learning resources and wellbeing programmes.
So, if you’re looking to jump back into the working world, check out our Returners Careers Programme for more information.