Your Career Series Part 1How best to use a break in your career?

Career breaks are more common than you would think. The world is increasingly noticing professionals in the middle of their career are sometimes actively and sometimes unintentionally end up with a break in their careers. While personal reasons like a wedding, a new member in the family etc. are easier to visualize there are several professional reasons why these could happen as well:

a)Restructuring in organizations is more common now with economic uncertainties

b)Monotony in a role or a specific industry prompting a break to ‘think things over’ are quite common post the 30s

c)Failed start-ups forcing folks to take a break

Fact is, the breaks are here to stay and one needs to make full use of them and if leveraged right can be used as a booster to ones career as well. Here are a few suggestions based on my personal experience and anecdotal references from other folks

1. Leave the baggage behind: You will be surprised how much baggage each of us are unknowingly carrying in terms of perceptions, anger, illusions of our own capability (or the lack of it), feelings of right and wrong based on varying value systems that we have been exposed to as part of our work life and more as you try to get deeper into the garage of your mind and start cleaning up.

2. Take a look at yourself in the mirror: find out who you truly are, what are your true strengths/weaknesses, what your true passion is, what you really like/hate doing.

3. Focus on ‘family’: this could be a break in your professional career but there is a more important part of your life that had taken a backseat so far, please bring it right back where it belongs – in the passenger seat besides you.

4. Pick up that old forgotten hobby: dust that guitar, buy the new digital SLR that you have been meaning to lay your hands on, pick up on that marathon spirit, how about a round of tennis!

5. Give back to the world: When did you really ‘do something’ for someone else. It could be very simple like teaching someone to read, help your grocery store understand how ‘cash flow’ works.

6. Get ready to get back in action: Of course, you need to get back to action sometime, why not come back with a new perspective and may be a completely new industry/new role. This will be a good discovery of who you are. Learn a thing or two about business functions like sales, marketing, finance etc. sharpen your soft skills like negotiation, build contacts through networking etc.

While a break in the ‘rat race’ may sound catastrophic for a while, if used right could make you the ‘cat’ amongst the rats when you do get back in the race ?

Tapan Rayaguru (Exec Director & Career Coach Sunstone Business School)

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