Money Management

Five simple questions to ask yourself before taking a career break

Itchy feet? Time for a career break? A good sabbatical all boils down to good planning.

Whether you’re in your dream job, your near-dream job or your nowhere-near dream job, the daily grind of a modern career can take it out of you. And on top of leaving you physically and mentally drained, working life often conflicts with all those wide-eyed dreams and passion projects you might have.

Perhaps there’s a novel you’d like to write or a university degree you’ve always wanted to delve into. Maybe you want to head out into the world with nothing more than a passport and a backpack. Closer to home, you might just want more time to spend with the kids or to sort out the garden, once and for all.

Enter the career break.

Far from professional suicide, a break from work can actually help bolster your CV (that’s an article for another time) and give you a healthy dose of essential ‘me-time’. It might even help you reconsider what’s important and lead to some potentially life-changing decisions.

Whatever reason for your career break, here are a few questions to help you figure out what you want to do and how you’re going to do it.

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What do I want to do with my time off?

Figuring out what you want to do with your time will help you decide how long your break needs to be and how much money you’ll need to have in the bank. Taking time off work before figuring out what you want to do is likely to leave you ill-prepared and prone to procrastination (unless spending six months on the couch has always been a dream of yours).

How much time off do I want and when do I want it?

Obvious, but important: setting a timeframe and some ideal dates can help motivate you to actually make this thing happen. Depending on what you plan on doing with your time, you might need to consider external factors (life events, significant dates, seasons). Going travelling in the middle of cyclone season isn’t going to be much fun.

How am I going to afford it?

You might already have some money in the bank, you might not. It doesn’t matter. What matters is planning and, if necessary, saving effectively to make your break a reality.

Whatever you plan on doing and for however long, draw up a rough plan of how much money you think you’ll need, tack on some extra for emergencies, and work out how long you’ll need to save to hit your target. Once you’ve done all that, you can likely make some immediate changes to your everyday spending to help that pile o’cash grow right away.

When and how should I tell my boss?

Your approach here all depends on the size and scale of your break and your relationship with your workplace. You might be ready for your break right now; it might be a couple of years until you’re ready. Either way, being diplomatic and honest with your employer is essential.

You’ll likely be surprised by how encouraging your employer is and, if you give enough notice, you might be lucky enough for them to keep the door open for your return (or even, if your break isn’t going to be that long, let you take unpaid leave).

What next!?

You have to make it happen. You’ve decided what you want to do, you’ve sorted out a savings plan and you’ve settled on a time to tell your employer. From here, it just takes a pinch of dedication and a smidgen of perseverance to bring it to life. You’ll have your doubts from time to time, but you’ve come this far because you have a yearning for something more. Staying in your comfort zone is easy – taking risks isn’t. But, arguably, the payoff will be worth infinitely more than a pay cheque.

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