23 April 2013

Career breakers leaping - copyright Real Gap

Many career breakers worry that taking a career break will leave them behind everyone else - or even that they'll drop a couple of rungs on the ladder.

The good news is, that generally doesn't happen. 

Firstly, because career breaks are much more common now, employers not only accept them, but recognise them as a way of up-skilling their staff while retaining loyalty. Very few employers frown on career breaks these days - and be honest, would you want to work for such a dinosaur anyway?!

Secondly, you can ensure your career break isn't 'time off' it's 'time out' - in other words, time spent doing useful and constructive things. A career step, if you like.

So what can you do to ensure you come back from your career break at the level you want to be at? Here are some tips:

  • Do some volunteer work in a role you aren't doing in your day job. For example, if you want to progress to being a manager, but no-one seems to want to give you the opportunity, take a volunteer role where you will be in charge. It might be teaching where you have to control a classroom of kids (or adults), or you might manage other volunteers.
  • If you want to learn new management skills but volunteering isn't for you, consider TEFL (teaching English) or training as an instructor (skiing, snowboarding, sailing, diving, etc). In a teaching or instructing role, you will be effectively be managing a group, and also responsible for getting the best performance out of them.
  • What about if you fancy broadening your experience in your job, to help your promotion prospects? Again, volunteering is perfect for this - virtually any job you can do professionally you can do as a volunteer. When you're working in a different country, within a completely different culture, and with people who might not even speak the same language, you'll develop a breadth of knowledge and a raft of skills that your colleagues back home can only dream about!
  • Like volunteering, working abroad (doing paid work) can develop your skills in your day job. As well as developing all your soft skills (communication, teamwork, etc) you will probably learn new and innovative ways of doing things - and you can bring these into your job when you return. 
  • If you just want to travel on your career break, you can learn as you go (eg taking a diving course, going to cookery school, learning photography etc) so you have some specific transferable skills when you get back. You might think that diving has almost nothing to do with accounting for example, but those soft skills we talked about earlier (attention to detail in this case, or recording information) will be honed whatever you do. Even just travelling requires organisation, planning, communication, co-ordination, etc etc.

Taking a career break, no matter what you do, shows you have drive and initiative, plus it develops your confidence, which will come in handy when you're asking for promotion!

If you've got any questions, leave them in the comments below and we'll try to help you out. You can remain anonymous if you like.