There are many reasons to take a long break from your career, from having a family to caring for a loved one in need. While some breaks may be planned, others may be unplanned. No matter what the reason for taking a break from work, returning to your career can be filled with challenges.
The Many Reasons for Career Breaks
Taking a vacation from your career may be one of the best things you can do for yourself and your mental health. Especially if you’re feeling overworked, frustrated, and burnt out, taking some time off can allow you to refocus, refresh, and decide what your next career move should be.
You may choose to take time off for medical reasons. Maybe you’ve just had a child and elect to have plastic surgery done to get some of your confidence back, or maybe you’ve been experiencing back pain at your desk and need an extended break. Either way, you’ll need time to recover, so you may choose to take a vacation and return to your current job once you’re feeling better again.
Meanwhile, if you’re going to have a baby, you could find yourself out of work for multiple months at a time on maternity or paternity leave. Specifically, one major parental leave trend affecting employers is that more companies are opting to grant mothers six-month leave terms. Companies are also increasingly recognizing the importance of paternity leave, prompting you to take a longer period of time off to bond with your new baby.
Regardless of the reason you took a career break, there will still be challenges when it’s time to go back to work.
Look for Flexibility
If you’ve been out of work for a while, falling back into a schedule of working full-time can be a challenge. If you’re looking for a new job, you may want to prioritize opportunities that give you plenty of flexibility — especially if the reason you took time off was to spend it with a new child. Starting with a part-time role that allows you to move up to full-time work may be ideal, especially if you’re returning to your career after a physically taxing surgery or illness.
The same is true if you’re returning to school after years off. Finding a program that allows you to study on a part-time basis during your first semester back can make for an easier transition, giving you time to get used to being a student again. Online courses can also offer convenience and flexibility, so you can study where and when it works for you.
Consider Remote Work
Some situations that prompt a career break may make it difficult to leap back into your career, especially if there’s a long commute or you’re physically taxed from an illness. In these situations, seeking out a remote work opportunity may help. Some positions may allow their employees to work entirely or partially remote, which can save on commute time, stress, and which will also mean that you don’t necessarily need the physical stamina necessary to navigate full days in an office.
Employers have plenty of reasons to support having their employees work remotely. In many cases, employees can be more productive when working remotely, since they can often modify their schedules so that they can make the most of the times of day when they’re most productive. Additionally, employees are more in control of their home environments than they are an office setting, which often allows them to work intensely without the distractions that are often present in a public environment.
If you’re returning to your existing job, consider asking your employer whether they would be open to a part-time remote work arrangement. If it’s successful, they might be willing to expand it to a full-time remote role in the future.
Be Patient With Yourself
You might expect that once you return to your previous job or land a new job, you’ll just fall right back into the schedule of working, but that isn’t always the case. Think about the reasons that were behind you taking time off and how they may affect you.
For instance, if you’re navigating postpartum recovery, you’ll be facing major changes to your mental and physical health. It will take you time before you feel like yourself again physically, and postpartum depression can further complicate your return to work. On the other hand, if you’ve taken time off to care for a loved one, you’ve probably been under significant stress. Listen to what your body is telling you and only return to work when you’re truly ready.
It’s normal to experience some stress and anxiety when returning to work after a long break, but if you find that your stress seems to be out of control, consider seeking out a counselor who can help you to navigate this transition. A good counselor will be able to support you during this time and they can help you to prepare for and deal with the many challenges that come with going back to work.
Whether going back to your career means looking for a new job or returning to your previous job, you’re bound to face some challenges along the way. Remember that this process will take time, but soon you’ll start to feel right at home as you once again make progress as a professional.
Written by: Indiana Lee, BOSS contributor