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Taking a career break – Is it worth it and should you consider one?

Updated: Nov 24, 2022

A career break, defined as “A period of time during which one chooses not to work, typically in order to bring up one's children or pursue other interests”, was on the menu for me in 2022. Entering 2022 after 2 whole years impacted by COVID-19 (particularly in Melbourne), I was in need of a refresh and a change. Despite possessing one of the best clinical caseloads I have had in years, lots of projects on the go, and working with lots of athletes I had invested time and effort into, I knew I was reaching burnout. This left me uninspired, lacking drive, and my mental health was suffering. I made the scary decision to take a career break, stepping away from work for 6 months to pursue a ‘bucket list’ travel odessy with a goal of enjoying life outside of work, relaxing, and refreshing.


Burnout involves physical, mental & emotional exhaustion, and is very common in healthcare professionals. I have previously lectured to physiotherapy students about the risks and impact of burnout on ones career. A slide from one of my presentations is included below which highlights some of the evidence-based risks, and recommendations for burnout.







Why a career break?

My time off work was around 7 months, and the time I spent overseas a good 6 months. I had flirted with the idea of shorter periods of time off, however after completing this in the past, it hadn’t done much to ‘refresh me’. I find on a 2-4 week holiday it will take me 1-2 weeks to unwind and relax, whilst during the last week of the trip I begin refocussing into a work mindset. Additionally, with the psychological impact of the pandemic-enforced lockdowns added into the mix, the decision was made for me and my partner to take a longer block of time off. For both of our careers, taking 2 months or 6 months had a relatively similar impact, and we decided if we were to have some time off, let’s ‘do it properly’.




How did I benefit by having space from my career?

Taking an extended period of time off allowed me to properly relax and have time away from the routine of work and life. Despite enjoying my routine, when stuck in the ‘day to day’, it can become stifling and all consuming. Prior to leaving I had begun to loathe my routine, and not value the many benefits and opportunities I was afforded. By stepping away, it allowed me a great dose of perspective, and I return with anticipation to re-establish these routines. I was also able to realize just how lucky I am to live and work in a city like Melbourne.


During my career break I was allowed the freedom of thought to think a little more creatively, which may yet breed a few exciting ideas in 2023 and beyond. Additionally, it allowed me to put some time into hobbies and passions, with this manifesting in the form of travel photography, a travel blog and social medial channels (https://2cupsoftravel.com).


Positively, my career break also helped me regain my passion and desire for my career. I pride myself on being a hard worker, and this time away has really re-energized me for the next stage of my career journey.



What should you consider before taking a career break?

Firstly, I want to put it out there that a career break isn’t for everyone. However, if you are facing a situation where you are burnt out, or considering a change, a career break may be just what you need. I have listed a couple of things to consider when thinking about taking a career break:

  • Are you running away from things? The answer may be yes, but at least it’s worth acknowledging. Taking a career break to run away from life or career problems may not be the best platform to address them, and you may return with these issues still present.

  • Will it be detrimental to your career? This will be very career, person and job specific. Whilst taking a career break has temporarily stalled my career progression, it hasn’t significantly been affected. I am lucky enough to be resuming my similar role, and have numerous opportunities to realize in 2023 and beyond.

  • Can you afford it? Whilst taking a career break may be what you need, I personally wouldn’t recommend getting into a poor financial position just to achieve it. This may cause further stressors upon your return, including financial hardship. I was lucky enough to be in a position where this was possible.

  • A career break doesn’t have to be a holiday: Your version of a career break may look like trialling a different career, or leaning into different hobbies or passions for awhile. A holiday is an excellent method of taking a career break, but not the only option.

  • Have some plan to consider your career during your break: Don’t spend your entire break thinking about your career, however, I would encourage you to use some of the time to think about it. I found that the time away allowed me to be more refreshed, and this also provided a mindset that I wouldn’t have had access to when in the ‘day to day’ back home.


For those wanting a little bit more of a read about career breaks, check out a wonderfully written article by another physio colleague, John Contreras by clicking here


What can you expect from me in 2023 and beyond?

I will be attacking 2023 head on, and there’s a lot that will hopefully be realized in 2023. I will return to clinical consulting at Physiosports Brighton (book an appointment here). I will also have a number of differing opportunities I am looking to further progress, including teaching & education, mentoring, sporting, and also side projects. However, I will also look to use the lessons from my career break and endeavour to maintain a healthier work-life balance, something that has suffered in previous years.


References:

2. 2 Cups of Travel: https://2cupsoftravel.com

3. John Contreras “When a Break Can Heal”: https://physiosocialclub.com/stories/when-a-break-can-heal.


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