What is a career break? (And how to take one).

A career break is when you take time away from your job or career. This break can be for personal reasons such as travel, family commitments, pursuing further education, or simply taking time off to recharge and reassess your career goals and direction. Career breaks can vary in length, from a few months to several years, depending on the circumstances. Some people take an extended break from their career to reconnect with themselves, explore new opportunities, gain a fresh perspective, or address health-related issues.

Career breaks are becoming more common as people seek greater work-life balance and opportunities for personal development. However, taking a career break may have implications for your career progress, financial stability, and ability to re-join the workforce — but only if you do it the wrong way!

How to take a career break, the right way.

Taking a career break requires careful planning and consideration to ensure a smooth transition back into the workforce once it's over. Here are some tips to plan a successful break:

Know your WHY:

Be clear about your reasons for taking a career break — what's the purpose? Is it for personal reasons, professional development, mental health, or other factors? Understanding your motivations will help you plan effectively.

Why are you taking a career break? Are you intending to:

  • Escape the rat-race & start your own business?
  • Spend quality time with your loved ones?
  • Take a well deserved rest to improve your mental health & overall wellbeing?
  • Explore your career prospects and make a career change?
  • Improve your professional skills through online courses or higher education?
  • Take a break from the relentless stress and create better work-life balance?
  • Pursue your other interests, or discover new interests?
  • Make a difference in the world through volunteer work?
  • Travel the world to see the bigger picture, and gain perspective?

Whatever your WHY is, know it well. It will be your primary source of motivation during your career break.

Have a solid plan:

Decide the length of your career break and plan how you will spend your time. Set goals and objectives to remain productive and focussed. This is a valuable opportunity for self-discovery, growth, and renewed enthusiasm. Use this time wisely to explore new horizons, pursue your passions, and create a life that aligns with your values and aspirations.

The things you achieve over your this period will help you justify your career break when you're looking to return to full-time work. So, think about where you want to be in x months, and create an effective plan to make it happen.

Consider your finances:

Weigh up the financial implications of taking a career break. Calculate your expenses before you leave your job and ensure you have enough saved to cover your living costs. Explore options for managing finances during the break, such as budgeting, savings, investments, or part-time work.

How long can you afford to take off? How much will it cost you each month? How long will you need to save beforehand? Will you need to start a side-hustle?

Communicate with your employer:

If you're currently employed, have an honest conversation with your boss about your intentions to take a career break.  If you want to return to your job after your break, discuss options such as unpaid leave, sabbatical programs, or flexible work arrangements. Be prepared to explain why you're taking the break, and how your absence will be managed.

‍Typically, people don't go back to their old job after having a career break. But it's still good practice to be open with your employer about it. They're still part of your network; it's better to leave a good impression and leave yourself open to opportunities in the future.

What to do on a career break.

What you do during a career break largely depends on your personal interests, goals, and circumstances. Here are some ideas for productive and fulfilling activities to consider during a career break:

Go on an adventure:

Step outside your comfort zone and embark on adventures that challenge and inspire you. Try new experiences, learn new skills, and embrace uncertainty as you discover your passions and redefine your priorities in life.

Explore new destinations, immerse yourself in different cultures, and gain a new perspective by travelling. Whether you prefer solo adventures, group tours, volunteering abroad, or cultural exchanges, travelling can be a transformative experience that broadens your horizons.

Expand and nurture your professional network:

Take the time you have to develop your career network. By doing this, you'll create a wider range of career opportunities when it's time to return to work. Update your LinkedIn profile to make it the best it can be. Spend a few minutes each day looking for new connections, and staying in touch with old ones.

Try to identify potential hiring managers at organisations you'd like to work for in the future, and find a way to connect with them. Check if you have any mutual connections, join the groups they're in, and interact with their posts. Then, reach out to them directly and explain why you'd like to connect. You'd be surprised how many people find jobs through LinkedIn.

Enhance your skill set:

Taking a career break provides an opportunity to develop new skills or enhance existing ones. You could build some completely new skills, which could help you pivot into a new career path later. Or, you could focus on refining your greatest strengths to command a higher salary when you return.

Consider taking online courses, attending workshops, or pursuing further education. This will make you more competitive when you re-enter the workforce, and help to explain why you took time away from work.

Do more soulful work:

Career breaks are the perfect time to channel your creativity into personal projects or hobbies that you enjoy in their own right. Whether it's writing, painting, gardening, cooking, photography, or music, indulge in activities that nourish your soul and provide a sense of fulfilment.

Is there a sport you loved as a kid, but no longer play? Did you use to play the guitar, but found yourself getting too busy? Reconnect with your passions, and you'll build more excitement for living your life.

Work with a career coach.

If you're taking a career break to change your working life, career coaching will help you find your next direction. A good career coach will help you with things like setting clear goals, revamping your CV, and returning to work successfully. They will ensure that the time you take off actually benefits your career, rather than stagnating it.

There are many options when it comes to coaching. You could work one-to-one with a coach, take part in group webinars, or follow an online programme. However, you choose to partake in career coaching, it's a great investment that improves your day-to-day life.


Dedicate your time and skills to meaningful causes by volunteering with non-profit organisations, community groups, or humanitarian projects. Volunteering allows you to make a positive impact, build valuable connections, and gain experience while contributing to the greater good.

Volunteering also shows that you were active during your time away from work, purposefully. This will be a great way to explain your leave to employers when returning to work after a career break.

Are you planning a career break?

We hope you found these tips useful! There are many ways you could spend a career break, but fundamentally it entirely depends on who you are, and what you want. If you're planning to take a career break to get your working life under control, our career coaching services are here to support you. You can start our online programme for free, or reach out to our team for a completely free consultation. We'd be happy to discuss your plans, and how we can help you along your journey!

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