• Lai Han Sam

Preparing for a Career Break

Updated: Sep 12, 2019

Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

Recently I have been asked to do a keynote at a back to work event for women who have taken career breaks - either to take care of their children or their sick parents. Others take breaks to start a small business or simply to take a rest to nurture their health. Whatever the reason for taking the break, it is a huge change in lifestyle, priorities, and for many, financial status.

I spoke to many who made the transition and they had a lot to share. Most of these were things they did not expect and wished they had known before taking the plunge to make the change smoother.

1. They wished they had planned and prepared for the transition better

Planning and preparing for change is important to avoid that rude shock that comes inevitably with quitting a job. It is good to set aside time for reflection and really examine every part of your life to understand the impact of the change. Of course, in some situations, there really was no time to think or prepare for the change. It is still beneficial to take this time even after the change.

2. They wished they had set boundaries for themselves and others better

When a woman quits her job, she is expected to be available to her family and others all the time. Most people think she has all the time in the world to cater to the needs of others. No one realised that she took a break to have the time to take care of the family or start a business. Both of which will take up her time and of course, is like a working on a job! Learning how to say no and knowing why they made the change was important in helping them to set their priorities and goals straight.

3. They wished they understood how the change impacts their self-confidence

There was a woman who quit her job as a high-powered executive, where she presented regularly to the company board members. After she took a career break to take care of her kids, within months, she lost that confidence and could not even do a simple group sharing with her peers. She had connected a lot of her identity with her job. With her job gone, in her mind, she lost who she was. This is important to realise as many of us do work that we really believed in or enjoy. A break would mean a drastic change in skill set used and lifestyle and thus, may disconnect us from the identity we had built over years.

4. They wished they had stay connected to their colleagues during their break

Staying connected to their colleagues had multiple benefits. This makes sure that they take the time to break away from their new routine and plug back into the working world. By staying informed about the updates of their industry, it also helps to make the journey back to work a smoother one after the break. If she is spending a lot of time looking after others, then taking time for herself is key to recharging and self-care.

5. They wished they had someone who can support them through the change

At the time of the decision, she thought that it was her decision and thus, she was to suffer the consequences (if any!) of that decision alone. So even when she was experiencing difficult feelings or challenges, she did not ask for help. Asking a friend or family member or even hiring a life coach to be a support partner, can help tremendously in having the support and encouragement that she may need. It would also help to have someone to talk to and even brainstorm strategies to overcome challenges.

Deciding to take a career break, to put others before self, is admirable and noble. None of the women I spoke to regret making that decision. Companies spend a lot of time and money managing change. Spend the time (and money!) to manage your own life changes and don’t assume it is not needed. Only when you are taken care of, can you take care of others.

Don’t let the challenges of this change take away the joy of your decision to serve others first. If you take the time to prepare for a career break, it would make the time away from work, more fruitful and enjoyable. Make this break a time to remember fondly and with gratitude to be able to spend time with loved ones.

What would you like to have at the end of your career break?

#hansamlai #lifework #careerbreak

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