How To Prepare for a Career Break (With Tips and Guidance)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 30 August 2021

Whether you want to take a break from employment or have a desire to start your own business, a career break may be a good decision for you. Career breaks are an excellent opportunity for you to take a meaningful rest from work and reduce stress levels so you can focus on what the best career choices are for you. There are a number of reasons you may choose to take a career break, so it's important to learn more about what a career break is and the benefits.

In this article, we outline what a career break is, whether you should take a career break and some tips on how to plan for an effective career break.

What is a career break?

A career break is when an individual, employed or self-employed, takes some time away from work. The time horizon for a career break can vary, as it depends on why you want to take a career break. There are many reasons for taking a career break. For example, you may want to further your professional development by attending courses at university, or your career break may be for more personal reasons.

A career break differs from a sabbatical, which is more of a formal arrangement with your employer. A sabbatical also guarantees a role for when you return to work. This means your time away from work is likely to be a lot shorter than a career break in order to meet the needs of your employer.

Related: Q&A: What Is a Sabbatical?

Should you be taking a career break?

As you continue to progress successfully in your career, you may end up with more accountability, while having the same amount of personal responsibilities at home. With proper planning, you may be able to take a break at any stage of your career. Taking a career break can help ease some workplace stress you may have and may provide you with a new perspective on your ideal work-life balance.

There are many personal and professional reasons to take a career break. You might want to take time away to figure out your long-term career goals and aspirations, focus your efforts on a volunteering project or travel to a country you've always been interested in visiting. It's important to establish the reasons you want to take a career break so you can decide if it's the right time for you based on your schedule and budget, among other unique considerations you may have.

Related: How To Make Time for Self-Care While Working from Home

Career break tips

Here is a combination of tips you may find useful to follow before or during your career break:

Think about career timing

Before you plan for a career break, review your current position at work and assess your progression. Talk to your manager about whether progression is possible within the timeframe that's ideal for you and consider achieving your promotion first before you go on your career break. By earning a promotion before leaving, you can gain the knowledge, skills and expertise you need to continue to succeed in your career when you come back from your break. The additional work experience on your CV can increase your value as a candidate and differentiate you from your peers.

Have a backup plan

Once you have left your place of work, you can start working towards the goals you want to achieve during your career break. However, a risk to consider is that a situation may arise, which could affect your career break plans. For example, the industry you work in can experience a rapid economic decline. Consider having an alternative career break plan so you can make appropriate adjustments to ensure you can adapt to any unexpected situations.

Build your network

Developing a strong professional network is an important part of career success. Continue to build your professional presence, both online and in-person, so you have a group of professionals you can connect with if you have questions or need guidance in your career before, during or after your break. Once you return from your career break, you can leverage your useful list of contacts for innovative ideas you want to explore or new opportunities you want to pursue. Having a strong network in place is a useful way to manage your career changes more easily.

Work a side job

Taking on a side job can provide you with passive income while you are on your career break and is often a great way to explore different interests you may have. A side job doesn't have to be full-time or in a specific field of work, rather, it can be an area of personal interest or a passion project you want to further explore now that you have more time and capacity. You could work part-time at your local animal shelter or create an e-commerce store to sell niche products.

Read more: 20 Side Jobs To Earn Additional Income

Develop new skills

The wide range of skills you may outline on your CV can determine your employability. That is why it's valuable to create a habit of developing new skills while you're on your career break. You can dedicate the time to develop skills you've always been interested in having or those skills that are important for your career field and should be particularly useful when you decide to return to work. For example, you can take a coding course to enhance your IT skills, which can be useful if you're interested in the gaming industry.

Related: How To Develop Your Skill Set for Career Success

How to take a break from work

Follow these steps when you're ready to take a career break:

1. Inform your employer

Communicate your intentions with your employer as soon as you've decided to go on a career break. This dialogue can help you adapt your plan, timeline and budget as you need. Some employers may even offer you a sabbatical or other incentives to consider so they can ensure you remain a part of their workforce.

2. Assess your finances

Before going on a career break, it's important to ensure you have a budget in place to cover the career break period so you can eliminate undue stress that may come from not having a steady paycheck. Consider looking at your personal budget and trying to find ways you can reduce your spending. You can do things like reevaluate your insurance policies or use coupons the next time you visit the supermarket.

3. Define your goals and objectives

Decide on what activities you want to do and identify the requirements for you to reach your goals. Whether you are travelling the world or want to start a family, it's useful to structure your objectives so you can plan the appropriate steps. During your break, monitor your progression so you can reevaluate if you need to.

4. Monitor your personal development plan

A personal development plan includes the steps you may take to reach your long-term goals. It's also a useful way of keeping track of your skills and identifying areas of development. While on your career break, think about your personal development plan to ensure you can achieve your goals, whether they involve educational pursuits or lifestyle aspirations.

5. Account for gaps in your CV

During an interview, potential employers may enquire into any gaps of employment on your CV. Ensure that you prepare for these discussions. You can update your cover letter and CV to include the skills you developed or the volunteer experiences you signed up for during your break. Towards the end of your career break, you can update your profile on job search websites to notify potential recruiters and talent managers that you're now open to employment opportunities.

6. Plan for your return

If you're able to plan for your return back to work, it can make the transition easier for you. Determine if you want to return to a similar job, seek a career change or even start your own business. Include specific steps in your plan to ensure your return goes as smooth as possible. For example, you can include which contacts in your network you want to reach out to or which employment development classes you would like to attend.

7. Enjoy your break

If you decide to take a career break, it's likely for a reason you carefully considered. Use your career break as an opportunity to grow personally and professionally. Upon your return, you can apply the new skills you developed during your time away to whatever career path you choose to take.