Want To Take A Career Break? 3 Reasons Why You Should Do It

Have you ever wondered how the Amish tradition of rumspringa can change your life? A couple of months ago, I came across a wonderful write-up by Sophie Heawood in The Guardian that says why new-millennium adults of the west need to adopt it more to live a more fulfilling life. Rumspringa is an Amish tradition where young people are allowed to live life on their own terms before they return to their traditional lifestyle – an equivalent of the pre-college gap year.

A gap year is not a novel concept, but it is not so much in demand in India before you start university or even your first job. However, professionals in their 30s and 40s seem to be more inclined towards rumspringa nowadays, choosing to walk away from their hectic lifestyle without scheduling a return. The corporate culture chooses to call it sabbatical, but most HR professionals call it ‘breaking free’ – a clean break from your old job and even your old life for a while.

“The difference is just a thin red line. You take a sabbatical when you want to do something specific – take a course maybe or travel or volunteer. But you tend to return to your old life, relaxed and rejuvenated,” notes career counsellor Sanchit Mangotra. “In contrast, breaking free is a total turnaround that impacts you both personally and professionally. The scope is much wider than a traditional sabbatical and the outcome might not be what you anticipated,” he adds.

3 reasons to opt for a grown-up gap year
Although India numbers are not available yet, UK media reports say more than half of their career-gappers were in their mid-30s or older in 2013, compared to only 8% in 2012. Then there are new terms like grey gappers, indicating 55-plus people who are taking inspired career breaks. Of course, naysayers will condemn it as a career suicide. But here are three reasons to do it if you value yourself as an individual.

1. If you think there’s a career misfit: Not all of us are as lucky as Farhan Qureshi of the movie 3 Idiots and often make a wrong career decision during our academic years. If you are in your 30s, been in the job for a few years and don’t think it’s your niche, it’s the right time to go for a gap year and take a real hard look at what you are doing. If you are fed up with your job or have been laid off, it is bound to trigger negative feelings and affect your self-esteem. In such a case, your gap year would mean a lot of hard work – from learning a new skill to finding a new role and even starting a business of your own. But it will be worth it in the long run.


2. If you have a more pressing issue: This is usually the reason behind sabbaticals, but chances are your line of work or your company doesn’t offer it. There could be loads of top priority things in your life that would call for a long break. It can be something as crucial as raising a baby/looking after aged parents or you may want to nurture a hobby/passion that you have neglected till date (for me, it’s a series of forest treks across India). Whatever it is, if you strongly feel about it, go, do it now and forget everything else. Some people even take their families along and if you can manage to do it, it could be the best time ever for you and your dear ones.

3. If you feel you are in a rut: Both personally and professionally. This is, perhaps, the most complex mindset that drives us to an early burnout and a desire to take control over our life all over again. This may lead to intense and unpredictable changes – I have once come across a couple in their mid-40s who have left their banking jobs and sold their Bangalore home to start an organic firm in Kerala. If you really feel a strong urge to rediscover yourself and reinvent your life because you are stuck in a rut and your life is not going anywhere over the years, take a break and do the needful.

Plan and make provisions before you leave
Money matters even when you are redefining your life – especially when you have aged parents or a growing family to look after. Many of us feel limited by these factors while others are too desperate to start off as soon as possible, instead of making some judicious plans. Keep a tab on these three things even when you are on a career break.

1. Take care of your investments: Your investment portfolio and credit rating should not suffer even when you are away from a regular job and putting your life in order. Plan beforehand, make savings your top priority and ensure that you have as much fund as possible. Don’t be a defaulter if there is a loan running or you are making credit card payments. You can rent out assets (think of short-term lease if you are away from home and not using your vehicle) to generate some additional income. If you plan to be away for a long time, you can even consider selling some of the assets. Store away only a bare minimum for reuse when you are back. A working vacation or freelance work also pays well if you are suffering from cash crunch.

2. Retain your insurances: Stay insured as the money will always come in handy – be it a medical emergency or damage/loss of goods. Travel insurance is another essential that you must not skip.

3. Keep networking: Keeping in touch with the old crowd will keep you updated about the industry scenario and could even land you a freelance opportunity during the gap year. But the most sound advice came from a LinkedIn connect who has so rightly said, “Become friends with people who aren’t your age. Hang out with people whose first language isn’t the same as yours. Get to know someone who doesn’t come from your social class. This is how you see the world. This is how you grow.”

That’s all there is about breaking free – you are doing it to keep growing. As for the risk of stepping out of your life and career, it will all be there when you get back. For now, go.

Images: Thinkstock/Getty Images

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