How To Survive the End of a Career Break: 4 Tips

Halfway into my career break a traveller enjoying a two week holiday in Tanzania asked me what the hardest thing about it was. I didn’t need to think twice before the words started rolling off my tongue and I replied “the fact that it has to end”.

I wasn’t ready for my career break to be over.

The end of a career break often creates the next challenge. Almost everyone will experience a period of adjustment but the length and intensity can vary. Some people return home refreshed and rejuvenated, ready to pick up life where they left off but with renewed energy. Their career break comes to a natural end, has created some great experiences and fond memories and the return home is the final step on the journey.
Others take a little longer to adjust.

If you are in the latter group (and I certainly l was) the adjustment period that follows the end of a career break can be tough on both you and those in your life. Well-meaning friends and family will say things you just don’t want to hear and you will do the same. But there are ways to make the transition back to reality easier.

1. Join a Support Group

DON’T LISTEN TO:

“Things will be back to normal before you know it – it will be like you never left”

DON’T SAY:

“You don’t understand”

INSTEAD:

Join a support group
The challenges you may face during the end-of-the-career-break adjustment period can seem irrational to those around you. You’ve been to places some people only dream of, you’ve experienced amazing adventures and enjoyed inspired moments. And now you are finding it tough being back in the reality your friends have been living whilst you were away? You may find sympathy short lived and empathy missing.

Need support? Join a support group!

There are many people who are experiencing the same feelings you are or better still, have survived the experience. Reach out to them. I created this travel blog after I had returned home as a tool to share my passions with like-minded people. One of the unexpected benefits has been the great travel community it has introduced me to. But you don’t need a website to join this community. Twitter, Facebook, the internet – support groups are everywhere.

2. Get a New Hobby

DON’T LISTEN TO:

“Look forward, not back”

DON’T SAY:

“On my career break…”

INSTEAD:

Get a new hobby

There’s nothing wrong with reflecting on the past, especially when it inspires your future. But when you find yourself starting every conversation with “on my career break…” your friends’ interest in your adventures will soon expire. Instead, take up a new hobby that you can share with like-minded people or develop skills you learned during your break.

The first item I purchased when I returned home was a DSLR camera. Travelling had created a desire in me to do more than capture memories with my camera. I wanted to learn to create images that could tell a story, capture the essence of a location and inspire others. Taking up photography as a new hobby not only kept me busy and distracted from the ‘career break homesickness’ I was feeling, it was something I could connect to my passion of travel.

Although the irony of learning photography after my round-the-world trip has not escaped me…

3. Plan Your Next Adventure

DON’T LISTEN TO:

“It was a once in a lifetime experience”

DON’T SAY:

“I hate being back”

INSTEAD:

Make plans

I lost count of the number of times I heard “it was a once in a lifetime experience” from well- meaning friends. And it irritated me every time. I couldn’t understand why everyone viewed it as an amazing experience that now had to be locked away in the ‘great memories’ section of my mind. But as I was resenting a comment I interpreted as “get over it, move on” I was being equally irritating by not embracing being home. There is a grace period when you return, when others are sympathetic to the adjustment challenge you are facing. But it doesn’t last forever – and it shouldn’t. There is nothing more irritating than someone who is unhappy but does nothing about it.

So do something about it.

If you are finding it difficult to adjust being home, plan your next adventure. It may be another round-the-world trip or it may just be your next holiday. If you aren’t sure what you want your next adventure to be, start small by planning outings on the weekend to explore more of your home town. As Marcel Proust said “the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes”

4. Reflect

DON’T LISTEN TO:

“It was a phase”

DON’T SAY:

“It was a life changing experience”

INSTEAD:

Reflect.

Travel is a phase for some people – an itch to scratch or a restlessness to settle – but not for everyone. A wise friend of mine recently described travel as ‘something you grow into, not grow out of’.

I describe my career break as a life changing experience but when I first returned I wasn’t really sure what that meant. I knew it wasn’t a phase, but I couldn’t articulate what it had been and what it meant for my future. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do the same thing again, whether I just wanted to make changes to my life here in London, or whether I wanted to do something completely different. I just knew I wanted change.

The most natural feeling when you have a question without an answer is panic. And the most common reaction to panic is impulsiveness. Resist the urge to make changes for the sake of change and instead take some time to reflect on what you have just experienced. Make photo books, continue (or start) your blog and read more about the places you’ve been.

The answer will come…

 

Have you found the return from a career break challenging? What tips do you have for surviving the return?

 

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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 www.kellienetherwoodphotography.com

Comments

  1. I am still trying to “get back in the groove” from my mini career break! I have been home for over a month….the urge to continue the travel is so strong…but tough on my family who seem to lack the wanderlust gene I inherited from somewhere!
    Love the new hobby idea…I have been talking about doing yoga for years…while I am looking for a new job/career…the perfect time to start!
    Great tips. Just need to know where to find that support group….could be useful.

    • I don’t think the urge to travel ever goes away if it’s in your blood! Yoga sounds like a great new hobby to take up and you never know, it could become part of a future travel adventure! Good luck with getting back into the groove…three years later and I’m still struggling!

      • Yeah…the desire to travel doesn’t go away!!! I see career break #3 coming up fairly soon…better get a quick career in the mean time! Maybe something that involves travel….(big sigh here!!!!) Happy travels.

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