“Is it time to take a career break or should I just quit my job for good?”

Written by The Honest Boss

How many of us have considered quitting work and pursuing something completely different? All of us, right? Though the pandemic, followed by the cost of living crisis has thwarted many dreams of hitting pause on the career grind, one fortunate person has been offered the chance to walk away from her job on a 6-month sabbatical. This week, the Honest Boss helps a nervous employee understand that having a gap in your CV doesn’t automatically lead to a career crisis. 

“I’ve been lucky enough to get a 6-month sabbatical from work, and I’m hoping to go travelling (something I’d had planned for years but the pandemic put on hold), and while I’m incredibly grateful to my boss and company for giving it to me, I’m already worried about facing a career crisis when I get back. 

I haven’t been enjoying work for the last year and have even been toying with the idea of switching industries, but I also have a mortgage and a wedding to pay for down the line so I feel pressure to stay put. I’m also worried about what a break at this point would look like on my CV to future employers. Then again, if there’s a time to do it then surely it’s now while I’m still relatively early on in my career? I’m afraid I will be making the wrong choice whatever I do and feel very confused. Do you have any advice?” 

Emily, 29, advertising.

Usually, when I give advice for this column, I aim to offer several points of view. This time my opinion is unequivocal – you simply MUST avail of this amazing opportunity. You may find it strange but it was actually all of your doubts that sealed the deal for me. The fact that you’re not enjoying your career is the main reason I think you need time out to recharge your batteries and reflect on what you really want from your job and the kind of life you want in the future.

More and more companies are offering sabbaticals as a means of rewarding and motivating their key talent. Being given such a bonus isdefinitely a sign that you are valued by your employers and, while you may be unsure about staying in your current role, it’s fantastic to know that you are so well-regarded by your bosses. 

While you are travelling, meeting new and different people, stimulating your brain with inevitable adventures, or behaving irresponsibly (a little bit badly even), you can do some serious soul-searching about what it is you’re looking for. 

While you’re soaking up sensational sunsets in different cultures, away from the stresses of daily routines back home, you can spend time communing with your inner self. That might all sound a bit ‘woo woo’ but the gift of a six-month sabbatical is exactly the right time to do a bit of navel-gazing. You have the chance to embark on a voyage of self-discovery and you should start by considering questions such as: What were your dreams before you entered the world of work? How far is your fantasy from your reality? How would you like to be talked about in your wedding speeches? If you’re thinking of becoming a parent at some point, how do you want your children to see you?

These are all enormous, philosophical, terrifying questions that are probably blowing your mind right now as they would anyone. But this is exactly the sort of emotional territory you should be exploring when on your travels. Your twenties are almost over and you’re planning an imminent wedding. Right there is the definition of an emotional crossroads. In the last decade, you’ve left school/further education, met your future partner and succeeded in a career you’re uncertain about pursuing. 

Your feet have barely touched the ground as you’ve been busy living a pretty full and grown-up life. That’s all a credit to you but you have earned the right to take your foot off the pedal and be a bit carefree. Soul-searching is what’s on the menu for you. You’ve been given the chance to cast off your ennui in exchange for a wonderful adventure while getting the chance to view your life from a range of new angles.

You can even upskill yourself on your time away. For example, you could investigate volunteering while abroad or engage in extracurricular study in a subject that interests you. Alternatively, would you like to use this time to write that novel/become a diving instructor/earn sailing qualifications? Maybe you’re a wannabe entrepreneur and this could be the chance to set up that sideline you’ve always wondered about. What I am trying to suggest is that while on a sabbatical, some of your self-exploration could add real value to your CV. If ever there was a moment to switch industries as you’re considering, this is it. You’ll get the breathing space to experiment with what your real passions are and reflect on the pros and cons of a possible career reinvention.

You may be so reinvigorated by your odyssey that you actually find you like your current role more than seems possible right now. You just needed time away to realise the fact. Crucially, however, you can still decide to quit your job on your return. You’re under no obligation to stay just because your company hoped the time would boost your job enthusiasm. It’s a gamble they’re taking in good faith but they know it’s one that could backfire on them. Please don’t feel any guilt or sense of duty. This is that rare thing in life – a genuine “without obligation” gift.

One of my friends is about to set off on his fifth sabbatical – he’s worked for the same company for many years and it’s one of the rewards they use to maintain the loyalty and well-being of their staff. If I was running a company, I would encourage my people to take periodic time outs for a bit of valuable introspection. Stepping away from the rigours of full time employment could be just the creative kick start that you need to embrace the next stage of your life. It really is too good an experience to miss. Have a fantastic adventure and do send us a postcard or two.

Image: Getty

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