Once you approach your 40s, the idea of living on your own terms becomes more desirable than ever.
No matter how much you love your job, you will find yourself struggling to get by a mundane day in the office. You’d rather spend more time with your family or travel to places you’ve never been. And you’ll start to notice those unfulfilled and forgotten dreams when you were younger.
Now it’s time to think long and hard about the question:
“Should I take a mid-career break?”
Employees in Malaysia don’t have the luxury of sabbatical leave so the idea of taking a gap year is, unfortunately, most likely a big no-no.
If you are willing to put your career on hold to make time for other priorities in your life, you should first ask yourself:
- Have I achieved my personal (or business) goals? A pause in your career is essentially a step-back so don’t slow down until you’ve accomplished something, either for yourself or for your employer.
A dull day at work doesn’t leave your whole career at stake. You may feel like your job is meaningless at times simply because you are building someone else’s dream. So set your own career goals (hit a new sales target or gain a new skill) to have something to aim for.
- Is my work-life balance compromised?
One of the biggest issues in the modern workplace is the absence of work-life balance. The longer you spend in the corporate world, the less time you have to fulfil your personal life.
When you feel overwhelmed with work, try to talk to your boss to figure it out together. If you push to the limit, your job is likely to become a burden and you will fall off the career track sooner or later.
- Am I financially stable to quit a day job now?
You need to be realistic when it comes to financial matters. Besides the day-to-day expenses, you need to take into account the possibility of finding a new job after your long break.
The fact that Gen Y is reshaping the workforce makes it all the more challenging for baby boomers to make a comeback after a career break. Hence, don’t leave your job without having sufficient funds in case of unemployment.
So you have terrific career achievements, you manage to maintain a healthy work-life balance, and you are aware of your financial strength but you’re still not satisfied? Here comes the question:
“Is there anything that I’ll regret not doing now?”
The majority of adults believe that passion will result in a fulfilling career. Yes, it’s true, but how about a fulfilling life?
College-bound students are entitled to a gap year to find their passion, to step foot on foreign lands and explore different cultures, or to make an impact by volunteering. However, all of those fulfillments and experiences will only push them so far into the corporate life before they realise how suffocating life is within the office cubicle.
And it’s probably what you are feeling right now.
A career trajectory is no longer relevant in the 21st century. Those who are in their 50s or even 60s no longer look forward to retirement. What comes after the 60s benchmark is rather monotonous. Because happiness is made of experiences, not things, the idea of taking a mid-career break to accomplish greater things beyond the workplace might just be the best idea.
Why do I need a breather to figure all of this out, you ask?
Although a short vacation could be all that it takes to get you back on track and continue climbing the career ladder, the satisfaction is only momentary. You’ll have to face the same frustration the moment you are drowned in the paperwork once again.
A gap year is not just for you to rest, its purpose is to make time for things that really matter to you as well as your family. A break from the ordinary allows you to find the passion that makes your heart sing (not the passion that keeps your bank account loaded).
Here are the three most common things that people do during the career break (or sabbatical period):
- Be a full-time parent
Any new parent would agree that a 2-month maternity leave is way too short to take care of their babies. While long parental leave is not commonly practised in Asia, it is considered as one of the top employment perks in developed countries.
You can spend 20 to 50 years to build up your wealth but no amount of money is worth the time spent with your child. Taking 6-month to one year off will also enable you to connect with your family more intimately.
- Travel the world
The quit-my-job-to-see-the-world hype is still trending, and it’s not exclusively for the millennial. In fact, travelling in your 40s makes the journey more worthwhile.
You’ve already seen more facets of life; you’ll see the world from a very different perspective. Furthermore, you actually have the money to travel full-time without having to compromise on comfort and safety. So take a good look at the map and let your intuition guide you.
Plus, you’ll get to travel during off-peak seasons to really absorb the best things about being on the road.
- Learn new skills
Have you always wanted to learn how to play the guitar, learn how to bake, or had any other hobby for that matter? A career break is the best time to discover different interests outside of your day job.
You can also take this chance to upgrade your professional skills if picking up a new hobby is not your thing. Do make sure to enjoy every second of your break.
On a side note, gaining or upgrading skill sets can open up a whole new chapter of your career when you decide to make a comeback.
It doesn’t matter what you choose to do, a career break is set to change your life forever (for the better). So remember to embrace any chances coming your way to make a difference.