How to take a career break and make the most of it

·4-min read

Boris Johnson is officially on a career break. The former prime minister has stepped down from his role after just three years in the top job to make way for a new Conservative Party leader.

While much has been speculated about what Johnson will do next – whether it’s taking on lucrative speaking engagements, writing a memoir, or attempting to get back into politics – for now he is on a career break, but what does that exactly exactly?

“A career break usually means leaving your existing role or industry for an extended period of time, and they can be taken for a variety of reasons,” career coach and author of Graduate Careers Uncovered, Hannah Salton tells The Independent.

While gaps in your CV that represented career breaks were once looked down upon, they are now becoming increasingly common and more widely accepted. In fact, a 2022 LinkedIn survey found that 62 per cent of all employees worldwide have taken some sort of break from their career.

The networking platform asked 23,000 workers and 7,000 hiring managers and found that over a third of respondents (35 per cent) would like to take a career break in the future.

In response to the survey, LinkedIn added a career break option for LinkedIn profiles, so people can detail what they got up to during their break. While taking a career break is becoming more widely accepted, how do you know if it’s the right choice for you?

“If you can, it’s advisable to plan in advance before taking a career break in order to weigh up if it’s the right decision for you,” Salton explains. “There are many things to consider, including any financial implications, how you plan to use your career break, and how (if at all) you plan to return to the workforce.”

Salton adds that most people will need to consider a financial buffer when taking a career break.

“It’s helpful to be clear on your regular outgoing costs, and any other income or support you may get, and work out how you plan to manage your finances on a month to month basis,” she explains. “Make sure you factor in an extra buffer for potential cost increases due to the cost of living crisis.”

It’s important to spend time refocusing your priorities before launching into something

Hannah Salton, career coach

When considering the timing of your career break, it’s important to be clear on your objective – why do you want to take the break? Is it to care for a family member or perhaps to plan your next career move? The clearer you can be on the objective of your career break, the more likely you are to get the most from it, Salton says.

She adds: “Time may go fast, so you may want to plan a checkpoint. For example if you plan to take 12 months off, you may want to reflect and check in with yourself every month to see what you have enjoyed or found useful, and if there is anything you want to change for the next month ahead.”

If, like Johnson, you are taking a career break to plan next steps, Salton says it’s best to use this opportunity to focus on what you want next.

“It’s important to spend time refocusing your priorities before launching into something,” Salton explains. “What are your drivers for the next few years? Are you motivated by financial renumeration? Do you want to set up a charity or volunteering initiative? Do you want to change industries completely? Do you want to work full or part time? What else do you want to fit into your life around your career?”

With burnout rife among British workers – 79 per cent of workers admitted to feeling burnt out in a recent study – a career break can also give you time to focus on your mental health. But, Salton warns, if you are taking a career break for mental health reasons, be sure to stick to a routine and to plan what you will fill your time doing.

“There may be some elements to work – including a sense of community and a regular routine – that could negatively impact your mental health when taken away,” Salton explains. “If you are taking a career break to focus on your mental health, it’s a good idea to reflect on what else you want to fill your time with to ensure your mental health gets back to where you want it.”

‘Graduate Careers Uncovered: Tools and insights and exercises from a former recruiter to demystify your job search’ by Hannah Salton is available to purchase here.