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Benefits of taking a career break

A career break allows you to develop both personally and professionally.

The word experience highlighted on a page Taking a career break can be a way of enhancing your personal and professional development. Employees who have had a career break often return with a more positive outlook and enhanced skill set.

“The main reason for a planned career break is refreshment” highlights career specialist and author, John Lees.

“Recharge your batteries so you return to work re-energised but also focused on the kind of work you want to do. Refreshment should mean that you step far enough outside your normal life that you come back at it from a completely new angle,” he notes.

Ten top tips for negotiating a career break

Lees offers his advice on how best to negotiate a career break with your employer.

  1. Seek pathfinders – people who have done it before you. Find out how they succeeded in taking a break without wrecking their careers.
  2. Talk to your pathfinders about what went badly as well as what went well – learn from their mistakes.
  3. Check out your employer’s attitude and policy – how and when are career breaks offered?
  4. Negotiate, don’t demand – you may have to ask more than once in different ways.
  5. Talk about what you will bring back, in terms of learning, enthusiasm, know-how, contacts, awareness of other cultures.
  6. Have a clear reason for wanting to take a career break – don’t make it sound like a holiday.
  7. Anticipate the impact of your absence – actively assist to organise cover.
  8. Express your request in win/win language so that it’s clear what your employer gets out of the deal.
  9. Talk about the long-term so that your employer believes you really will come back to the job, buzzing with renewed motivation.
  10. Plan your return carefully so you have a clear role or project to return to.

Gain new skills

A career break may be a deliberate choice or the result of something unforeseen. You may have spent months thinking about going abroad and choose a career break as a way of having the time to dedicate to this. It can often lead to you having skills that others may not have, such as having experience of dealing with a wider variety of people and having to make unusual decisions.

Lees adds that the main advantage in career terms is that such a break provides very clear evidence of the fact that you take control of your direction of travel.

“Organising a career break takes imagination and commitment, but it also shows that you are decisive,” he explains.

Return more experienced

Perhaps your career break is focused on demands at home or from family, but wherever your break takes you, you’ll return with new and improved skills such as multi-tasking and time management. If you need to suddenly take time off to care for an elderly relative, the experience of responding well to a crisis will add to the skills which you can bring back to the workplace. Whatever the experience, you are likely to return to work with a fresh outlook.

People tend to say only bland things about career breaks on their CVs, but it’s a great opportunity to show that you can make active choices, manage your own learning and set your own agenda, so be sure to sell these aspects on your CV to make the most of the break.

What to expect when you return to work

Despite efforts to keep professional connections warm, things can be very quiet when you get back. It’s worth spending time several weeks before you return to start refreshing work links, so you can hit the ground running when you return to work refreshed and reinvigorated.