I am part of the large group of people that were let go by companies that didn’t perform well in the first quarter of 2022.
Surprisingly, when I was let go, I wasn’t upset.
I took it as an opportunity to take a career break.
With people stepping away from their careers voluntarily or involuntarily, when used the right way, a career break can help you improve your personal and professional life.
If you are in the position to take one, a career break has so many benefits. I’ve found that I’m happier, more relaxed, and I feel more present. I made it my goal to get focused, meet new people and broaden my skill set to become a better version of myself. You’d be surprised to see how much your life can change by focusing on these three things.
When you are on a career break, one of the best things you can do is get focused on yourself. Why? Because when you are focused, you can find your passion, identify the things that excite you, and find what you are missing in your career. You can’t confidently make your next career step if you are distracted by everything that comes your way. So being focused helps get you on the right path.
Getting focused during a career break can be a mix of work and play. You know those projects or activities you wanted to complete, but never had the time to finish? Or that new skill you want to learn and add to your resume? What about that park you always wanted to walk in? Or, the city you always wanted to visit? We all have a list of things we want to do if we had the perfect amount of time. So, what better time than during a career break?
By completing the things that have been pending in your life, you are honoring yourself. There is a sense of satisfaction we experience when we complete a task or activity, especially when they are overdue. It’s easier to focus when you feel accomplished, and once you know how exciting it feels to complete a pending goal, you will want to keep the momentum going.
Getting out of your comfort zone
During a career break, it is important for you to get out of your comfort zone and network. I used to pull away from networking events whenever invited and I was rarely active on LinkedIn. For some reason, I felt I couldn't find the right words, and would tell myself I didn’t have anything valuable to say. To push past this "fear", I joined networking webinars and reached out to connect with attendees. I then began to see the value of networking, and I joined career chats and communities that would have been invisible to me before my career break.
I have increased my LinkedIn network to more than 750 people, and I learn from my connections every day. You can learn from people no matter what career/industry they are in. When you are networking the right way, not only will you find new opportunities, but opportunities will find you.
An opportunity to upskill
I have been using my career break to pick up new skills to align myself with the career I want. Finding the right skills for the next steps in your career is easier than ever. If you aren’t sure what skills you should pick up, there are plenty of ways to discover them. If you connect with someone that is in a career you are interested in, ask them what are the top skills they use day-to-day. Another way to discover new skills is to look up the career you are interested in and gather the skills listed in the description. By identifying the skills you need, it is easier to research courses and resources.
There was a time when you could only learn new skills for a fee. Now, all you need is internet access, a laptop, tablet, or even a smartphone with a decent screen, and you can learn your next skill from the multiple free resources that are available online. Some libraries and community centers also offer free or low-cost courses for programs that could help your career, so don’t limit yourself. I have used HubSpot, LinkedIn Learning, Udemy, Youtube, and many other resources to prepare myself. Upskilling has helped enhance my resume and boost my confidence for interviews.
Life has shifted for me during my career break. By staying focused on what I want, I have identified opportunities that align with my career path. I have picked up a hobby I enjoy, and have been stepping out to enjoy my free time, which is something I didn't do before. I have also learned so many skills that will help make me a strong candidate for my new career. Each day I learn something new from people of all career backgrounds and industries. I now view each day as an opportunity to grow.
Career breaks are what you make it, use your break to create something you are proud of.