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The pros and cons of taking a career break

​According to research conducted pre-pandemic, nearly two-thirds of British employees reported to be interested in taking a sabbatical. However, on closer inspection, many people were wary of following through due to worries of being unable to successfully re-enter the workforce upon return.

There’s no denying that, traditionally, having a gap on your CV was considered taboo, but in the past year, this has all changed. In the last 18 months, flexible working has become a ‘megatrend’. Its benefits, such as improved work/life balance and a reduction of carbon emissions, have been recognised, and many have called for a complete overhaul of the pre-pandemic norm of the Monday to Friday, 9 to 5. Consequently, a huge proportion of the working world has decided to take up at least a hybrid working model.

This greater acceptance of flexibility in the workplace has not only changed the day-to-day workings of many offices, but it has also renovated traditional points of view, such as those around career breaks. According to research into Millennial’s careers, 84 per cent now expect to take significant career breaks along the way.

Of course, while the world is evolving around us, not all employers will be as quick to accept new ways of working. Additionally, some of the old rules still stand in the current period when it comes to taking career breaks so, if you’re considering a sabbatical – there are pros and cons that need to be weighed up.

It’s a great mental and physical health booster

During the lockdowns of the pandemic, a third of workers said that the conditions they were working in brought them much closer to burnout than ever before. 51 per cent said this was because of much longer hours being worked and 27 per cent cited the lack of social interaction as a key contributing factor.

To ensure that burnout isn’t reached and that your mental health doesn’t suffer in the long-term because of the last 18 months, take the opportunity of an extended break with both hands. Allow yourself time to recharge mentally and physically and return to the workplace feeling rejuvenated and refreshed.

It may be more costly than you expect

Paid leave doesn’t last forever, so it takes savvy budgeting to make the money stretch. Experts suggest that it can take up to two years to plan effectively, including building up savings, to fund a three-, six- or 12-month trip. There are the hidden fees too, such as medical bills out of your home country, lost baggage expenses, and other unexpected hiccups along the way.

It’s a great chance to recalibrate

During the incessant day-to-day monotony during the pandemic, especially during the lockdowns, many workers began to realise that they were perhaps not where they wanted to be, or that their goals were still far out of reach, and they had become stuck in a rut.

Those between the ages of 18 to 24 have been found to be the most likely to be concerned about the future of their career paths, with 66 per cent feeling that they have stalled professionally in the past 18 months and that the desire to jump ship is strong.

By taking a career break, it becomes much easier to see through the clouds and find a solution to how you’re feeling. It may be that it’s not even as drastic as finding a new job completely, it may be plucking up the courage to ask for more challenges in your current workplace or side stepping into a different role.

Explaining gaps can be hard

Even with flexible working being far more accepted in the working world than ever before, some employers will still find it difficult to look past a gap on your CV.

Nevertheless, a career break is about gaining additional experience in life, and to develop yourself as a human with interests. It may or may not directly benefit your career, but there will always be something you learned or gained which will help shape the rest of your career. If you travel abroad and experience different cultures, this can help when working in a multi-national organisation. If you want to work for a charity, volunteering can show a passion for the third sector.

Ensure that when looking to re-enter the workplace or even find a new job, that you draw upon this break and refer to the new skills, hobbies and practices you have been privy to outside of the usual 9 to 5. Also be clear on how these new-found learnings could benefit your place of work and why your time out stands you in stronger stead than other candidates.

A career break is a big decision to make, so ensure you spend time weighing up the pros and cons and really thinking about every scenario that may come from taking, or not taking, a time out.