25 July 2016

How to set your career break goals

If you're a regular visitor to this site, you'll already know that taking a career break is an awesome experience.

But what do you actually want to get out of your career break?

You need career break goals if you want to get the most out of the experience - and if you want to come back with better career prospects, more confidence, and a sense that it was time well spent.

If you're having trouble setting career break goals, we can help, by guiding you through how to set SMART goals.

SMART stands for

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time based.

Without using SMART goals, you'll only have a wishy-washy sense of what you want to achieve, and you won't be able to tell if you're achieving it!

So let's set you some SMART goals.

Career break goals - city

1. Set specific career break goals

Your specific goals might be to do with:

  • Your career (learning something on your career break to help you climb the career ladder)
  • Your personal development (becoming more confident, a better communicator or able to cope with challenging situations)
  • Money (not running out of it!)
  • Helping others (through volunteering)
  • Learning something new (informally or through a course)
  • Travel (visiting specific places)

Grab your note-taking tool of choice, and start noting down some specific goals now. Which countries do you want to visit? What experiences do you want to have? How many things from your bucket list do you want to tick off before you come back?

Career break goals - coast and cliffs

2. Set measurable career break goals

This can be a bit trickier, because you can't measure how much more confidence you have, or how well you dealt with a difficult immigration officer.

But there are some career break goals you can measure. If you're learning something new, like a language or an adventure sport, your qualification or the time you spend learning can be measured.

You can measure miles travelled, time spent travelling, or tasks completed on a volunteering placement.

If you plan to blog or take photos, you can set a goal for the number of posts you want to write, or the number of pictures you want to take.

Career break goals - railway

3. Set achieveable career break goals

You might want to turn into a champion snowboarder or become the next Ben Fogle, but it might not be possible (not a bad thing, the world only needs one Ben Fogle).

All of us are guilty of thinking we can magically transform into a different and better person the instant we go abroad, but we can't. We can, however, become a better version of ourselves.

So you might not become a champion snowboarder, but it might be perfectly reasonable to set a goal of passing a Level 1, or even a Level 2 instructor's exam.

A word of warning - don't set goals that are too easy or you won't feel like you've achieved anything. Remember - a goal is something to work towards - if you don't make one of them but get most of the way there, that's better than doing nothing.

Career break goals - road

4. Set realistic career break goals

There's a lot of overlap here with achieveable goals - you need to be realistic to know what you can achieve!

Realistic goals mean knowing how much time and money you have. You might want to visit every country in the world but you're not going to do it in 4 months! Or you might want to do every career break on this site, but you're not a millionaire. So when writing down your goals, think about how much of your resources you want to devote to each one. You might have to ditch some goals in order to be realistic about how many you can achieve, and that's OK. Better to have 3 realistic goals you can achieve than 10 that you won't.

Career break goals - sky

5. Set time-based career break goals

We meet tons of people who say they'd love to take a career break, sometime or other.

Or they want to travel the world, but don't have any idea of when they might do it.

If you want to achieve your career break goals, you must set a time limit. It could be to leave within a year, or it could be to go before you're a certain age.

You can also set time limits while you're away. With a course or a stint volunteering, your time limit is already set by the organisers, but other things will be up to you.


Now you have some ideas of how to set career break goals that you can actually achieve. Want to share yours? Talk to us on Facebook or Twitter.