Gap years aren’t just for bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, pre-uni backpackers. A career break – the gap year’s slightly more mature older sibling – not only offers a welcome antidote to the desk-bound day-to-day, but provides people with a chance to discover new ideas, and to reinvigorate their creativity.
Designer Stefan Sagmeister’s TED talk on the topic – “The Power of Time Off” – advocates for career breaks as an essential means of professional rejuvenation. Even if you adore what you do, taking time away from it can be a great way to ensure it doesn’t get stale. As Sagmeister says, “just like with many many things in my life that I actually love, I adapt to it. And I get, over time, bored by them.”
If you’re at a point in your career where you’re getting itchy feet and would like to explore some more of what the world has to offer, maybe it’s time to consider taking a well-earned career break. If you’re still not sure if it’s for you, here are a few reasons to motivate you.
Consider what you really want from your career
When we’re busy actually living our lives, it can be hard to take a step back to figure out what exactly it is that we want. We get swept along by the current, and before we know it we can find ourselves in careers without really knowing how we got there.
Taking a career break affords you the luxury of consideration time. Regular holidays can often be just as hectic as your usual life and by the time you’ve wound down out of work-mode, you’re already back in the office. Taking the time to ponder and reflect on how things have been so far might enlighten you in ways that you could never have expected.
Learn how to value your downtime
Even if you’re a workaholic who thrives on getting stuff done, just learning how to relax again could make a huge difference to your life. In a world where we struggle to detach from the office, and are connected to everyone we’ve ever known via social media, we never really have the time just to be. Being disconnected from work for an extended period can help you to realise how much you value that downtime, and could change your attitude to how you work when you do eventually get back to work.
Build skills you don’t normally have time to focus on
Although we all have many different aptitudes, our careers tend to focus all of our time on just one or two of our skills. Taking a career break allows you to go back to things that you left by the wayside years ago, or always wanted to do but never had the time. Maybe you’d like to work on your photography, or keep a travel blog to hone your writing skills, or to sharpen your coding through personal projects. Whatever you’d like to try, a career break gives you the perfect opportunity.
Use the time to do something weird
One of the most important aspects of taking a career break is discovery – of new places, new ideas and new sides of your personality. Being out of your usual routine means that don’t have the option of resorting to habits or stock responses. This also means that you’re more likely to try things that you normally wouldn’t even consider. Embrace the difference and try out things that you ordinarily would never dream of.
Expose yourself to new people, ideas, cultures, languages and influences
If you travel during your time off – which is highly recommended – simply being exposed to all these new faces and places could change your life. You never know when you’ll meet someone whose perspective could unseat all of your previous convictions. Maybe you’ll discover a means of living or working that you’d never have considered before. Maybe you’ll find yourself captivated by a style of art you’ve never encountered, or a cuisine that blows your mind. Whatever the possibilities, the only way to potentially discover these things that could change your life is to go out there and search for the unusual.
However you choose to return to work after a year spent elsewhere, you won’t be the same. Travel, experimentation, getting lost, and seeking out new ideas will have plumbed new depths in your personality, helping you to realise all the different strengths and capacities that may have lain dormant otherwise. Take risks and push beyond your usual boundaries – your career will thank you for it.