Why Taking A Career Break Can Be A Great Investment

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been writing about traveling over the long term and experiencing the world at She Thinks I’m Cheap but I also wanted to bring a subset of this discussion to the readers at Boomer & Echo.

Taking time off from your day-to-day routine for several weeks, months or even years isn’t just an activity for new graduates or those wanting to live “off the grid”.  Let’s discuss the career break.

The term career break is pretty self explanatory and has become a commonly used word around the world.  It describes a period of time that people use to pursue personal interests such as travel, volunteer work or even just to spend more time with family.

Related: How A Career Change Improved My Life

Let’s say you’ve worked for 5, 10 or even 15 years and over that time you’ve come to realize that there are a lot of things you’d like to see or do but just haven’t had the time.  Here’s where the career break comes in.

What many people don’t realize is that there are lots of ways to take time off work and keep your job.  Keep in mind that you won’t continue getting paid while you’re off!

  • Large companies usually provide the option to take a leave of absence during your time with the company.  Leaves can range from anywhere from a couple of weeks to several months depending on the length of your service with the company.  The policies that discuss leaves should be available from human resources.
  • Smaller companies may be able to work out an arrangement where they hire a temporary worker to fill in for you for a period of time.
  • Small business owners could promote a staff member to run the day to day operations of their company for a short time while they stay on top of things remotely for a few hours a week.

Related: How To Prepare Yourself Financially Before Starting A Business

Before we go into why a career break is a good investment, let’s first look at why many people think they can’t take one.

Money

The first thought that will pop into many people’s minds is that they do not have enough savings to fund their lifestyle for a long period of time while they are not working.  The problem is they are usually right.

We tend to structure our financial obligations based on the assumption that we will always be working and getting paid on a biweekly basis.  The key to solving this is to:

a) plan ahead and save for a while according to the plan, and;

b) adjust your lifestyle before, during and after the leave to reduce your spending.

Fear of losing a job

By asking for a leave of absence many people may think that their employer will replace them while they are gone.  This is a legitimate concern so the first thing you should do is make sure you get the leave documented in writing.

Related: How Did You Choose Your Career?

Many people are not scared of losing their job because of how great it is, they are actually scared of losing the job because of the financial impact it would have.  This brings us back to the first point that I mentioned!

It’s just a crazy idea

Taking time off from working may simply seem unattainable, impossible or even crazy to some.  The idea is so foreign with so many issues to tackle that many will simply decide that they just can’t do it.

North Americans put a lot of emphasis on home ownership and career growth so a career break may be a taboo subject for many as it deviates from a predefined path.

Other issues

People will often cite children, their house, a pet or any number of other commitments that prevent them from taking a break.  Meanwhile, once you actually go through it, these all become reasons to TAKE a career break!

Why Take a Career Break?

I think that if more people realized how great a career break can be (personally and professionally), they would stop focusing on the barriers to taking one and realize that taking time off for personal growth can tremendously increase one’s quality of life!

Related: Does Your Job Define You?

So, why should you take a career break?

  • Pursue personal interests or develop new skills which will lead to greater self satisfaction and fulfilment
  • Volunteer or give back to the community either locally or globally
  • Travel
  • Spend more time with friends and family
  • Re-assess your current career

After taking some time off, you might realize you didn’t really like your old job in the first place and you’d like to set out on a different career path.  On the other hand, you might feel reinvigorated like never before and dive back into your old job with a fresh perspective.

If your current or perspective employer has a particularly negative view of career breaks you might want to consider if it is even in your best interest to work for them!

Examples

Here are a few concrete examples of things you could do with your time: learn a language, spend time with an ailing family member, get closer to your children, travel to different and exciting places, learn how to fix your own car, grow your artistic abilities in music, painting or sculpture.

Related: My Best Financial Tip – Make More Money

Let’s not forget that you can improve your health during this time by dieting, training for a sporting event like a marathon or Ironman or learning a couple of new sports.

In short, a career break can be anything you want it to be.

Going back to the barriers I listed earlier, if you see the benefits of taking time off you can come up with your own solutions to those problems by saving money and planning for it.

When you consider all the things you could learn, do, see and experience with a few months off, you’ll realize how valuable an investment a career break can be!

Andrew Martin is a personal finance and investing blogger from Toronto, Ontario with a background in technology and a passion for travel.  His blog, She Thinks I’m Cheap aims to help Canadians make more money by sharing facts, stories and advice.


8 Responses to Why Taking A Career Break Can Be A Great Investment

  1. Joe says:

    To me, this is why maintaining a frugal cost structure and being debt free is so important: it equals freedom. I have been able to take the full parental leave entitlement with my daughter, including an upcoming six weeks of unpaid leave. Some people prefer to be debt slaves, I put value on family time and financial liquidity. It’s about priorities. I was told many times that what I’m doing right now was financially impossible.

  2. Tracey H says:

    If you’re under 35 (30 in some countries) you can also get a working vacation visa and work while you’re in various countries. My daughter’s spending a year in New Zealand doing exactly that (travelling around and working in resorts, hostels and for individuals in return for room and, sometimes, getting extra jobs to pay for food, etc.).

    • Hi Tracy, friends of mine went to NZ on a working holiday visa in 2003, they absolutely loved it. I’ve actually used the working holiday scheme twice: The first time was for Australia and the second was for the UK. I’ll be moving to the UK ancestry visa shortly which leads to citizenship after 5 years.

      Your daughter is getting the experience of lifetime!

  3. James says:

    I have a friend that used to take career breaks every two or three years. He did contract software work. At the end of every contract he would go off somewhere for a few months (mostly Mexico or somewhere in South America). After one of these breaks he came back and decided to become a fireman. He has been in that profession for a few years now and still loves it. He now arranges his time off so that every two years he has 21 days of paid time-off lumped together. He still has other days off through out the year, he gets to take a long vacation when he starts to get restless, and he gets to keep the job he loves. It might take some finagling but it will be worth it.

  4. Max says:

    It’s only in North America, where corporations have created a huge pool of “working class slaves”, that having a job and getting to do the things you like is a mutually exclusive endeavor, thanks to ridiculous employment laws eg being entitled to only 2 weeks leave in a whole year and not even being paid 100% of your salary.

    In other parts of the world, everyone is entitled to at least 4 weeks paid leave, which means one can travel or do whatever else catches your fancy and with your children for that matter, while on a long holiday. Canadians really need to go and see how things are in other parts of the world, so they can hopefully see that contrary to all their perceptions, they really have it worse in terms of conditions of employment, than most people in other parts of the world.

  5. Veronica @ Pelican on Money says:

    I wish I could take a career break, but first I need a career :) My biggest fear would be not making much money while I’m gone, but per your advice, if I plan ahead then it wouldn’t be a big deal I suppose.

  6. Lisa says:

    I am currently on a ‘career break’, although I have been calling it the ‘princess plan’ for years (I have been planning it for years). So far it has been great, and the days fly by. I can’t tell you though how many people have been puzzled by this decision and keep asking if I am bored or when I will go back to work. I really didn’t care for my job in the end, so my answer to the latter is, ‘maybe never’. We can do this because we have always lived on only one salary while saving the other salary, and my husband fortunately, likes his career.

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