Not Sure if You Should Take a Career Break? Ask Yourself These 5 Questions.

Antarctica-MapPeople can cope with change when it is forced upon them (through redundancy, personal trauma or health scares) but the fear of the unknown often keeps them in a rut of discontent when change involves making a voluntary decision.

For some people making the decision to take a career break is the easiest part of the process, especially if events outside their control have required lifestyle changes.  But not everyone finds this decision an easy one.

If you are considering a career break but can’t quite decide if it’s the right thing for you, ask yourself these five questions.

1.       What will you regret more? Taking a career break or NOT taking a career break

I challenge you to find me someone who has said one of the following things:

“I wish I never took a career break, it was the worst decision I ever made”

“Gaining new skills has made me less attractive to future employers“

“Learning to speak a new language means there are less people in the world I can communicate with”

“Travelling to other countries was boring and dull”

“I didn’t enjoy having time to spend on things I love doing, I’d rather be sitting in a cubicle in the office”

I have never met anyone who has regretted taking a career break – I have only met people who regretted not doing it sooner.

2.       What is on your bucket list?

A bucket list is a collection of things you want to do before you die and everyone should have one.  There are no rules to a bucket list and it can include anything you want – places to see, skills to gain, people to meet or adventures to experience.  There are no limits to how ambitious it can be and it can be as short or long as you want.

If you don’t have a bucket list, write one.

Now read it and cross out the items that are impossible or will be difficult to achieve (such as flying to the moon) or are outside your control (like winning the lottery).   I expect there are still a number of items on your list and if there aren’t, you should try and write your list again!

Now ask yourself when you will find the time to do them?

This was the driving factor to my first career break.  I realised that I wasn’t going to be able to do the top five things on my list (take a round-the-world trip, volunteer in Cambodia, learn Spanish in Bolivia, travel overland from Rwanda to Cape Town and learn to meditate) unless I took an extended break from my career.

(For the record, I never did learn to meditate – it is still on the bucket list!)

3.       What is the worst that can happen? And what is the best?

Ask yourself what the worst thing is that could happen on a career break?
Now ask yourself what the best thing is?

Compare both of your answers.

I’ll be surprised if the possibility of the worst outweighs the probability of the best.

4.       How can you replenish your bank account and how can you reclaim time?

Did you know that most people value security more than happiness?  The thought of not having a regular income is enough to frighten most people away from choosing to take a career break.  How will you pay the mortgage, what about your pension, what if you get sick?  A career break costs money but taking a break from your day job doesn’t prevent future earning potential – sometimes if even enhances it.

Make a list of all the ways you can replenish a depleted bank account:

–          Get another job

–          Rent out your property

–          Sell something (keep it legal!)

–          Borrow (last resort, but not impossible)

Now, make a list of all the ways you can reclaim lost time. Can you think of any?

It’s a no brainer right?

5.       What are you waiting for?

You may have decided you want to take a career break but just not yet.  There will always be a reason not to take a career break.  “I have kids, I need to save more money, I am waiting for a promotion at work, I have a mortgage to pay” …the list can be endless.

Ask yourself if the reason is a challenge or an excuse?  If it’s an excuse, you probably don’t really want to take a career break but if it’s a challenge there will be a solution.  The internet is full of career breaker blogs and almost all of them could have found a reason NOT to do it if they wanted to.

Still not convinced the time is right?  Go back to question 1 and start again!


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Kellie is a traveller and photographer who is most at home when exploring the world beyond it. Through the intersection of her travel, writing and photography passions, she shares her experiences to inspire others to create there own. The desire to live life instead of existing through it has introduced Kellie to inspirational locations throughout seven continents and from this a passion for landscape and wildlife photography has evolved. She feels a particular connection to the polar regions and Africa. You can see more of her photography at


  1. It is actually a difficult decision to make but I know one thing for sure: The grass is always greener on the other side. When you travel for a longer period of time, you keep thinking of your future career. When you stop travelling to make your career plans accomplished, you start regretting it and wish you could be on the road again. The best way is to combine your work and travel plans and enjoy both at the same time. I used to be a teacher but changed my profession into web designer so I can still develop myself as a successful traveler and freelancer :-).

    • That is such a great point. A career break is a great step towards a career change, or a change in the way you structure your existing career. It doesn’t have o be one or the other. In fact I am taking career break #2 early next year with that exact goal in mind, to find a way to combine travel\career. It’s all about finding he balance. It’s always to inspiring to hear stories from people who have that, so thanks for sharing!

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