Career Break

Is It an Escape or a Need?

Taking a career break from full-time work is not an easy decision

Divya Singh

The working day started again. In a soliloquy, an officer said, “I feel like I am dragging myself to work, I wish I could take a day off today”. As soon as the officer reached the work, thoughts kept on pouring “I am not enjoying working this… I am feeling lost… I wish I could bring some changes in my career…” Again, another employee, who is an Assistant Manager, in a different workplace was having a difficult time because of her health. Filled with emotions, she was thinking, “I just need some time break from everything…Oh! I wish I could just relax….”

This was not an odd day when these people from different workplaces carried such baggage of emotions. It was an everyday story for them. The calendar kept on rolling and days, weeks, months and years kept on passing. Yet, the same stories continued…

These could be some scenarios where full-time working professionals are not happy with what he/she is doing because of professional or personal reasons. Yet, they could not sum up the courage to leave as well. In both cases, they might be actually in the need of a career break. However, financial obligation or family pressure, or lack of other options could be pulling back such professionals from taking a career break. And, another important reason that professionals could not take a break from full-time could be because of the stigma that exists in our society. Does our society consider career break as normal or does it consider person taking a break as ‘lazy’ ones? And, do potential employers/recruiters really want to recruit candidates having some career gaps/breaks? There could be many more questions that could be stopping individuals to leave their full-time professions. Even though an individual might be having burnout from work and loads of mental/physical stress, an individual could not decide on a career break in reality.

When we say career break from full-time work, reasons could be for pursuing new goals in life-may be career change or higher studies, taking care of one’s health, taking care of family, or could be a very important one for mental well-being. At one point in a career, an individual could feel the need for a break and the reason can be personal or professional. Taking a career break from full-time work is not an easy decision. However, it’s the responsibility of an individual to weigh the pros and cons of taking a break. And, an individual can look for alternative solutions before taking this decision. For some, taking a career break could be the last resort and a much-needed one as well.

Whatever the reason, an individual should carefully plan before diving into this phase. If one is deciding to take a break from full-time work, I would suggest at least having below tentative planning done:

  • Dig out the genuine reason for the break- Before taking such a big decision, it’s good to self-talk and keeps on asking oneself why a career break is really needed at this point in time and also, weigh the benefits of the break against working full time. For an instance- For career change, one may have explored every possible way within the organization and outside as well. The person has finally found a solution to pursue full-time education or some professional courses. The existing workplace may not be having sabbatical leave and could not accommodate such requests. This could be one valid reason for taking a break for that person. Another example could be health-related reasons and the people may have received medical advice to take rest for some time.
  • Think about a ‘no work’ period- Also, the initial days of break could be a ‘complete break’, i.e. no work and ‘no pay’ period. Those who are used to working full time could find this period quite overwhelming of staying back at home. However, there might be a need to stay at home because of health reasons, caregiving to dependents and parental breaks, etc. So, one should think about the tentative period (minimum to maximum) of a complete break.
  • Calculate expenses and budget during ‘break’ days- Before the career break period, it’s important to calculate monthly minimum personal expenses required to take care of daily needs. If one is clear regarding the ‘complete break’ period, one can easily calculate the total minimum to maximum savings required.

According to a January 2022 global survey of 22,995 workers and 7,047 hiring managers conducted by Censuswide on behalf of LinkedIn, more than half of professionals have taken a career break. So, it’s not an uncommon scenario of taking such a break. Adding on to this, currently, LinkedIn has introduced ‘Add career break’ under ‘Experience’ with various options taking care sentiments of those taking the break. Various reasons for the break have been mentioned in the platform such as career transition, caregiving, full-time parenting, gap year, lay off/position eliminated, health & well-being, personal goal pursuit, professional development, relocation, retirement, travel, and voluntary work. With this added field, LinkedIn is trying to normalize having a career break in one’s work life.

In some organizations in Nepal such as the Tribhuvan University, some reputed banks, and some local manufacturing companies, there is the practice of providing sabbatical leave, especially for educational purposes. Sabbatical leaves are long leaves provided to employees (completing certain years of service) for taking care of personal needs. Benefits of such sabbatical leaves are dual, i.e. job security (as service is continued or can rejoin) as well as upgradation of one’s knowledge/skills/qualification. Although sabbatical leaves are not mandatorily required by Labor Act, such benefits are discretionary in nature, which companies provide for employees’ betterment. Sabbatical leave can also be an alternative to a career break, allowing employees to take care of personal needs. However, every company may not afford it. And, here comes the need of taking a career break.

Finally, if one has decided that taking a break is much needed in one’s life due to any genuine reasons, then one should definitely go for it. Initially, days of complete break could make sense. However, it can become monotony if the break is prolonged and not well planned. So, I would suggest it’s better to make the best use of this time both at a personal and professional level also by involving in some of the below options:

  • On the personal side- One should spend quality time with loved ones and have some ‘me’ time as well, such as having some vacation, devoting some time to one’s physical and mental well-being
  • On the professional side- It’s better to spare some time for one’s career growth during this period as well. Options can be:
  • Attend training/self-improvement programs – There are lots of programs online and physically offering various training programs. While investing in the right training, one should decide based on competencies that one needs to improve or add on.
  • Pursue further education – One can also think of pursuing further education during this period. In the past, balancing higher studies and work could have been very difficult.
  • Join professional clubs- While doing full-time jobs, it may not have been possible to join some clubs. Now, it can be the right time to join.
  • Rethink one’s professional goals- During this break, one should also take some time to self-assessing oneself-looking back at one’s past profession, and assess one’s achievements, failures, strengths and areas of improvement. It’s also great if one could take honest feedback from trusted ones-it could be family members, friends, or past colleagues. These could be really good sources to rethink a career change.
  • Think about startup- One may also think of utilizing this period as groundwork/preparation for a new startup as well.

In my opinion, tagging somebody taking a career break as ‘lazy’ or ‘impatient’, or ‘unmanageable’ is an old school of thought. Every person has a different story. If an individual really feels that this could bring balance to one’s life, then one should not feel guilty taking such a break. However, a well-planned career break could be in fact the wisest decision in life. A well-planned career break could give some ‘me’ time blended with valuable time devoted to one’s career growth/career transition as well. This could become a great way to restart one’s career after the break with more clarity on one’s personal and professional goals. And, also this period could be a life-changing moment for some, as one could explore one’s hidden potential as well. Also, as mentioned in the LinkedIn article “Why it’s Time to Rewrite the Narrative on Career Breaks” (March, 2022), it has been mentioned that 46 percent of hiring managers believe candidates with career breaks are an untapped talent pool. So, even for employers, this pool of people who are planning to rejoin the workforce with renewed energy can become a good source of potential candidates. So, a career break could initially look like an escape, but eventually, it could be a much-needed break to reenergize oneself to gear up one’s life.

Singh is Visiting Faculty, Trainer, HR Professional, SHRM-SCP (Society of Human Resource Management-Senior Certified Professional) and HR Consultant. She can be reached at

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