A step-by-step guide on how to plan your career break and decide what to do.
Step 1: Decide what you want out of your career break
Do you want your career break to:
- Help you in your career?
- Help you develop useful skills?
- Help you develop transferable skills?
- Give you useful experience?
- Make you a more rounded person?
- Help increase your earning power?
- Make you more confident?
- Expand your horizons?
- Develop your outside-of-work interests?
- Make you friends?
- Help you find romance?
- Be an amazing experience?
- All of the above?
Write down all of those things that you want your career break to achieve (or print out the above list and tick them off). Don't worry if all you want to do is 'something different' - that's the number one reason people give for taking a career break!
Step 2: Decide what you're going to do on your career break
The five main areas are:
- Volunteer work abroad
- Paid work abroad (which can include paid or unpaid internships)
- Taking a course (in snowsports, watersports, sailing, yacht crew, instructor courses or language courses)
- World travel
Then make a shortlist of things that you might like to do - it can be quite vague at this stage if you want.
Look at your list from Step 1 and think about whether each career break on your shortlist will fulfill what you want to achieve.
Also, this might sound obvious, but make sure it's something you really want to do! You may only get the chance to do one career break, so it's vitally important it's going to give you what you want and need from the experience.
You don't have to choose just one thing! Most career breakers do a combination of activities on their career break - for example, doing a TEFL course, then teaching English, then travelling for a while, then doing some volunteer work.
Once you've made a decision, you can book your career break experience with your chosen career break provider.
Step 3: Decide what to do about your job
Your main options are:
- Leave (but return to a similar job)
- Take a sabbatical (and come back to the same job and company)
- Change career
- Start your own business
The above options are listed in order of how common they are amongst career breakers. Staying in the same or similar job is by far the most popular choice.
What you decide will depend on whether or not you can get a sabbatical, and whether you want to stay in the same job, or same career.
You can of course decide what to do while you're on your career break (a surprising number of people do that). But if you do leave your job with no future plans, make sure you have enough savings to support you during your decision-making process. And don't burn any bridges.
A few career breakers choose to start their own business when they come back from their time out. That's how this site got started, in fact!
Step 4: Organise your career break
You should first contact your career break company and find out what you need to do. This might include sorting visas, getting your vaccines, and buying appropriate travel gear.
Next is your job - you'll need to agree a leaving date with your workplace, and/or get the terms of your sabbatical in writing.
You'll need to organise how you'll leave things at home too - renting out your house, getting someone to look after your cat, selling your car, and claiming rebates on things like your council tax and insurance. It's a good idea to appoint someone sensible like a parent who can tie up any loose ends in your absence. People can be surprisingly slow about returning your money to you!
Finally, organise the bits and pieces that will make your life on the road easier and more fun. That might be setting up a travel blog, getting a special travel email address, doing a photography course or simply reading up on your destination.
Step 5: Leave for your experience of a lifetime
Don't forget to say goodbye!
Excited by all of this? Start the ball rolling by looking at all the exciting career breaks you could do!