Mid-Career Break; A Risk Worth Taking?
Seriously, a mid-career break? Who would give up successful jobs? Half way through their career life cycle? To take a break and travel the world, unemployed and with no concept of what future income may look like?
That is exactly what Michelle and I did in July, resulting perhaps in the riskiest career decision either of us have ever made.
Working life broken down
It is becoming increasingly common for opportunistic, stressed out or simply adventurous minded employees to take a career break. It is perhaps not that surprising given the pensionable age going up each year and careers now spanning sometimes upwards of 50 years. I already feel like I have worked a lifetime after leaving my current company after 18 years (having worked elsewhere for 2 years before). Michelle has worked from an even younger age clocking up over 24 years of consecutive work. And yet we are still potentially only half way through our working life – perhaps even less than half.
Richard Branson recently stated that “time is the new money” (when announcing an unrestricted vacation policy at Virgin Headquarters globally) and I think he has a point.
In a successful career, experience builds over time and is a commodity which organisations buy into and value. The risk we are taking is that we believe valuable experience isn’t just earned and developed in the workplace. Rather it is accessible through experiencing new cultures, challenging personal beliefs, confronting fears and learning new skills which will indirectly benefit the second half of our careers. So a career break it is.
Overcoming the hurdles
The first fear we have overcome and arguably therefore the first stage of our new personal development was facing the unsecure, insecure prospect of being unemployed for the foreseeable future. This was perhaps unsurprisingly difficult to do and possibly the greatest hurdle we faced in making our plan a reality. Over the last 20 years of continuous employment many social and professional strands have intertwined making the prospect of unpicking them to clear a path to ‘launch day’ challenging and difficult. Many people give up at this point because the unpicking can easily become overwhelming.
However, we set a clear plan to our career break. Focussing on solving the short term barriers to getting away (resigning, finances, house rental, storage etc) whilst keeping a careful eye on the longer term objective and sense of achievement. Not too dissimilar to how we would have approached it in our professional lives.
Ultimately though what got us to this point was believing in ourselves and believing we will be more attractive to prospective employers when we return to the corporate world not less. Only time will tell if this was a risk worth taking, but in the meantime we are going to seize this new opportunity and career break and make the most of it.
Have you taken a career break? Are you thinking of taking a career break? Do you think that we are mad? We’d be interested in your thoughts or questions, please get in touch below.