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Thinking of taking a career break?

Written by: Charlotte Rogers
Published on: 23 Dec 2022

Engineering career break

Have you been thinking of taking a break from your career, but you’re worried about what your employer might say or the potential strain it may have on your career? 

 There are loads of other professionals in the same situation as you and it’s important to know what you are entitled to and what you could be doing during your career break. This article discusses all of this and more. So, if you are undecided on the benefits or potential downfalls of a career change, keep reading to find out more. 

What is a career break?

A career break is simply a period of time away from employment. There can be a range of different reasons as to why someone may want to take a career break, but all are personal and depend on your own circumstances. A career break is usually between one month to around two years, depending on what you prefer or need to take. It also has to be agreed with your employer beforehand, so make sure you are planning this well in advance. 

Why take a career break?

Sometimes referred to as the ‘adult gap year', career breaks are there to allow you to simply do other things, besides your day job. This time could allow you to:

  • Try out a new career path
  • Take on a full-time parental role
  • Volunteer
  • Try out a new hobby that you didn’t have time for before
  • Travel

The options are endless and definitely not limited to the points above. Being able to take a portion of time away from work can help you make big decisions, try new experiences, and simply do something other than work. There is no single reason as to why you should take a career break, but if you feel like it’s something worth doing, then definitely start up a conversation with your manager. 

How do you ask your employer for a career break?

Before asking for one, it’s important that you know why you want a career break. Are you sure you’re going to be doing the things you want and is it possible in the time frame you have given yourself? I say this because, it can be a long period of time and you don’t want to waste it, plus your employer may simply ask you during these conversations. You don’t have to enclose any personal details you don’t want to share, but it’s always good to have an overview before going into meetings like this. 

Some employers may have a career break policy in place, which will be available to their employees when they want to learn more about this subject. So, the best advice I can give is to just ask. The worst they can say is no and if that’s the case, there are other ways around it. 

Once you have decided that you want a career break and why, plan a meeting with your line manager to ensure you have time and space to discuss this properly. Don’t just mention it to them, make sure you have a conversation and take notes during, to action anything that you mutually decide or plan. 

After you have had your initial conversation, make sure you take it further. If you agree on things, make sure you set a date, have your paperwork ready and anything else they may ask you to complete. Different companies may have different policies but being on top of everything and having a mutual understanding of what to expect with your line manager can be really helpful. 

What are you entitled to?

As mentioned above, different employers may have different benefits packages, and this includes career breaks. There are currently no specific laws that say what employers should provide you with when taking a career break, it’s an agreement between the employer and the employee. Your company doesn’t have to offer career breaks or any benefits relating to this, so if this is the case, you may need to take a different route. 

This is why it’s so important to plan your career break with your employer. Make sure they know your intentions, how long you will take and what you expect from them. However, even if you have all of these points planned out, nothing is legally binding, so keep this in mind. 

Other points to consider

1. Although technically not your problem once on a career break, consider the impact it would have on your team. Do your colleagues have the skills and time to cover your role or is this something that would require another hire or agency worker to come in and cover? Things like this should be points you should bring up with your manager to get a better understanding of what would happen whilst you’re not working. 

2. What are you going to do? I have mentioned this above but are you going to use this time wisely? Some people literally just need a break from work and that is perfectly acceptable, but if you have plans, are you going to stick to them? You don’t want to waste this time because it’s likely your employer won’t keep letting you take chunks of time away from work. Plan it and really do what you set out to do. 

3. If you feel like you will need to persuade your manager to give you this time, make sure you are giving them a reason to say yes. What are you going to do during this time? Will it help the company in any way? Even if you are taking the time for yourself or a family member, you can always bring it back and mention how these soft-skills can help you in your role. Give them a reason to say yes to your request. 

4. Be prepared to discuss this time in interviews later down the line. If you do take this time and you find yourself job seeking in the future, make sure to include this on your CV and be ready to discuss this in the interview. You can read more on how to discuss career breaks here. 

Career breaks are there for many different reasons and don’t feel like you need a special reason for wanting to take time. If it’s important to you, then it’s important. Make sure you are considering this time and keeping in touch with your line manager about arrangements and agreements about your break. More importantly, if you want this time, don’t let anyone stop you!