The Power of the Career Pause
A career pause often invokes negative connotations on a resume. People fear that hiring managers will question dedication to their career, longevity or even skillset. However, more and more employers are developing an understanding for career pauses – some have even started recruiting specifically to this untapped talent pool.
Today, especially post-pandemic, career pauses have taken on a new understanding. Many women made the difficult decision to leave their career during the pandemic, whether to care for their children during quarantine, because of layoffs, for health reasons, and more. Instead of returning to their old jobs, some women are forging new paths, using the pause as a time to rethink their careers and what they want for their future.
These career pauses are not new, however. For years, many women have been taking career pauses after having children, taking a few years to care for them while they are little, and then returning to the workforce. Other women, like Farrell O’Rourke, take a career pause as a way to rethink and reset, to find their second act. These pauses can be an invaluable way to discover a new, more fulfilling career path.
So, that begs the question, is there value in a career pause? Are career pauses just for new moms? Should you consider a career pause if you are struggling with your current job?
The answer is different for everyone. Let’s take a look at why a career pause can be valuable for you – and a few reasons why you should think twice.
Benefits of a Career Pause
- Evaluate Current Career
Taking a career break is the perfect time to take stock of your current career. Decide if that career path is what you want to spend the rest of your life doing or if you need something different. Many times people will pause their career because they are frustrated, dissatisfied or experiencing burnout.
Spending the time to evaluate your career can be valuable. You can decide whether it was just your manager/company that didn’t suit you, or in fact, you need a complete overhaul. It’s possible that a different company in the same line of work, with more flexibility or more attractive benefits may suit better. Time away can help you realize if you disliked your job function or just your employer.
- Reset your Stress
So often employees overwork themselves until they burn out. Stress, anxiety, depression, lack of social life or family time can all eat away at a person’s life satisfaction. Overly stressed parents can even see behavioral problems in their children as a result.
Pausing your career can provide valuable time to reset and find what makes you happy again. Scheduling time for yourself, to do activities that bring you joy or peace can go a long way towards healing the damage done by a taxing career. Travel, take a pottery class, rekindle your love for music, start yoga classes. Scheduling a career break can reinvigorate and reinspire you to return to work with more passion and drive than before.
- Explore Options
Career breaks are the perfect time to explore other career options. If you have had an idea niggling at you for a while, this is an ideal time to give it the chance it deserves. Time off presents the opportunity for igniting a side hustle, volunteering, or nursing an idea from the ground up.
- Strengthen Your Skills
There is no better time to beef up your knowledge than during a career pause. Whether you are looking to do something completely new and need to go back to school or if you are trying to increase your knowledge in specific career skills, doing so while unencumbered with a full time job can make the entire process easier and more appealing.
Drawbacks of a Career Pause
- Money, Money, Money
The decision to pause your career risks losing income. Obviously. However, the loss of income during your break is just the tip of the iceberg. According to Lisen Stromberg, women that take a career break lose a lot more than a few months or years salary. The compounding financial impact of a loss of a year of salary can be staggering. From loss of raises over time to a gap in 401K contributions and their growth, the money aspect cannot be ignored.
- Explaining the Gap
Despite the massive increase in employees taking career breaks in recent years, employers and hiring managers definitely want to know the explanation. Whether you are pursuing other ambitions, caring for children, traveling, going back to school or taking a mental health break, you will need to be prepared to discuss the nontraditional decision to take time off.
- Tech Passes You By
Depending on your industry, the advancements in technology today can often leave people behind. Even supposing you took just took time off during the pandemic, social media trends like reels can seem like a foreign concept. New apps and technologies, updated software and processes are constantly changing and advancing. Anyone who has been out of the work force for any length of time will struggle to catch up.
Keeping abreast of trends, technologies and industry advances while on a break will make the transition back to work significantly easier. Even for people switching careers, some technological and social advances are ubiquitous. Scheduling time every week to remain current will help you stay current and relevant when the time to resume your career arrives.
- Re-Entry Struggle
As thousands of stay-at-home moms have found over the last few decades, returning to your former career after time off can be daunting. Some employers may not value your work experience prior to the break. You may be forced to accept a lower or even entry-level position at a new job. Your salary may be negatively affected. Resumes that show evidence of career breaks may be routinely passed over for ones showing continuous employment.
Career Breaks Increasingly Popular
As we move further away from the peak of the pandemic, the notion of career breaks has become more acceptable. Everything around the very concept of employment is being reimagined. People are looking for flexibility, reduced commuting, and a way to retain the lifestyle they became accustomed to over the past few years. Companies are slowly coming around to this phenomenon, which only increases the appeal of taking a career pause.
No matter the status of your current career, take the time to fully consider the pros and cons of a career break and how it can affect you, your mental health, your long term financial outlook, and your career prospects.