Dr Tookey, our resident psychologist is back this week with more insight for career breakers who are hoping to take a sabbatical from a few months to a whole year out. “With higher university fees many people are choosing to study first and earn their way to a more comfortable gap, and while some of us might feel putting our career on hold will hamper future promotions gaps can often have quite the opposite effect.”
When to go:
“If you really feel like a gap year is right for you then you should work towards making it happen. Even if you’re in a job you love it’s easy for resentment to build up over time so read the warning signs.”
* You feel as though your creativity is on the wane: If your focus is off because you feel you’d rather be travelling the world you won’t be doing your career any favours. Most employers these days are flexible and so is the job market, and it’s better to leave as a shining star than burn out.
* At a crossroads? This is also the perfect time to go ahead with a gap year. Sometimes when we’re in the throes of day-to-day life it’s hard to make those make or break life decisions, but when we’re in foreign climes and experiencing a life far removed from our own we often have the epiphany we’ve been searching for.
From gap year to mini-gap: The what and the why is more important than the length of time you are travelling. Dependent on your company and your role, perhaps a shorter sabbtical might be more appropriate. Consider your options and think of your trip as a sales pitch for your current employer. Forward planning and consideration for the company you are working for will put you in a better position from the outset and show you are still committed. Longer overland expeditions will allow you to experience several countries in a shorter period of time than a gap year, and since you already have a few years of work under your belt you’ll have the option to upgrade on the accommodation front.
Before you go:
* Let social networking get you started: On your current career path you’ve undoubtedly spent quite a few years connecting with colleagues and business contacts. Put these fine tuned skills to good use online and pull together all the information you require. Expert bloggers who were once in your situation will be able to share the pros and cons of career gapping with you so you can make a cast iron travel plan before you make the break.
* Manage your debts and make your investments work for you: You want a clean slate when you travel as money worries will put a dampner on anyone’s trip. Declutter, pay off those credit card bills and if you have a mortgage talk to an agency about renting your property.
Update your CV:
* Make your time relevant: Think about your travel options carefully and choose experiences which will really enhance your CV. Consider a voluntour where you’ll be able to participate and build on the skills you already have. If you are volunteering for a numbering of weeks ask for a reference from the organisation you are working with. Perhaps you were teaching or working on a conservation project and you’ll undoubtedly have picked up new skills on a cross cultural level.
* Overcome challenges: Life changing moments never go out of date as they define you and they will always be useful at that next interview. Take a negative element and lead it to a positive conclusion as gaps are part of the university of life. Were you scared of heights and jumped out of a plane? Leisure and commerce are not mutually exclusive so use examples to your advantage.
Keeping your career on the go:
* Forge ahead and make your gap year pay: If you’re working in the same job, hand your updated CV to your employer and if that dream promotion is in the offing don’t hold back – relate your experiences back to your role. You may have been off the career circuit for a while, but your unique perspective could hold a lot more weight than you think.
* Stay connected: when you’re returning to the rat race and have been travelling for a long period it can be an isolating experience. Keep in touch with the people you’ve travelled with as sharing experiences will help to ease you back into the working world.
* By now you’ve probably got the whole work-life balance kicked as a gap year can help us to re-evaluate what’s important. Remember what you’ve learnt on your gap and build it into your career.
Dr Max Tookey is currently a Senior Lecturer in Organisational Behaviour and Psychology at the University of Greenwich. He has expertise in the areas of careers, the dark triad of organisational life and the psychology of leisure, and he has contributed to various national newspapers and magazines.