14 October 2011

To help you get the most of out of your career break, I'm going to share some of my own personal career break fails and say what I would do differently next time around.

Fail 1: Being scared

As I've mentioned elsewhere, I used to be afraid of flying. I was afraid of a lot of things before I went travelling, and my fears turned out to be unfounded. Read this blog post if you want to know the very worst thing that happened (spoiler: it wasn't that bad).

The thing is, being scared doesn't really achieve anything. Being prepared does, and once you've done your preparation (got cash together, planned where you're going, got decent insurance, etc), there's no real reason to be afraid.

Sleeping monkeys, Balinese temple

I'm still scared of monkeys, although admittedly they don't look particularly frightening here.

Fail 2: Relying too heavily on guidebooks

Don't get me wrong, the guidebooks I used were brilliant (mostly the Lonely Planet). But next time around I'd get more information from the internet - as you get a wider range of opinions, and find out about more things (especially the hidden gems that are so much fun to discover). Follow us on Twitter if you want to do this too, as we retweet a lot of interesting stories and tips from other travellers and travel professionals.

People you meet travelling (both fellow travellers and locals) are great for insights, especially about local events.

New Zealand kids on a cannon

These New Zealand kids showed me some of their favourite sites around town (don't worry, their dad was driving).

Fail 3: Being casual about the photography

I took a fairly cheap camera because I thought it might get lost or stolen, but it could still take pretty decent pictures. I took some good ones but most were fairly ordinary and not of some of the most interesting things I'd seen. Next time around, I'd take a better camera and spend a bit more time getting decent shots. I might even take a photography course before I go to teach me how to take pictures properly.

When I was writing this, it struck me that this is a bit of an odd fail. But in my work, I see a lot of really fabulous travel pictures and it annoys me to think "I could have taken a shot like that!"

Balinese man attending funeral

This is the sort of picture I'd wish I'd taken more of. This remarkably cheerful Balinese man has just come from a funeral.

Fail 4: Not sorting your sabbatical properly

Finally, not my fail, but someone else's. I left my job, so an agreed sabbatical wasn't an issue for me. However, in our office we get calls on a regular basis from people who've taken a sabbatical, only for things to go pear-shaped and they find themselves in a hole. Some things that have happened:

  • They come back from travelling early, but their job won't take them back yet and they're not allowed to do other paid work
  • They want to extend their career break
  • The job has changed (tasks, hours, perks, etc)
  • Some weird thing happens like they need a foreign CRB check which takes months

In most of these cases, it turns out that the company is usually acting within the law. We also find that a lot of callers don't actually know what their sabbatical agreement or employment contract actually says. Thinking of all the possibilities, and getting a clear agreement (in writing) will ensure you don't get into a sticky situation.

Over to you

Have you got any career break fails you'd like to share? Email us in absolute confidence or tweet us if you don't care who knows about your failings.

This article was written by Rachel Morgan-Trimmer, founder of The Career Break Site.