Redefining your purpose with a career break

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Tomorrow officially marks my last day of employment. I have spent the past four a half years with one of the Big 4 consultancies, progressing from a graduate to a Manager over the space of just a few years, and learning more than I thought possible. Despite a great start to my career, I’ve chosen to throw that in to start a ‘career break’. That term is often synonymous with people taking maternity leave, raising a family, or finding themselves unemployed due to factors outside of their control, so why would I forfeit such a great career? Isn’t that a bit crazy?

I have been lucky enough to work with some of the top firms in the world, and been able to progress my career rapidly. Despite this, I have known for a while that something has been missing. I could never quite put my finger on it, but there was a certain something lacking meaning I started to look for a career change. Yet even in the midst of this search, I still couldn’t figure out what I actually wanted. I began questioning myself; I have a great job with great benefits, and am nearly ready to buy my first properly, so why am I not satisfied with that?

On this hunt for the elusive ‘something missing’ I spontaneously applied for an MBA and was lucky enough to get an offer. However, due to my very last minute decision to apply, this offer ended up being deferred for a year. This gave me a choice; stick in my current work for a year, or take the opportunity for a career break. I chose the latter.

For the vast majority, ‘work’ is something that lasts from graduating university, straight through to retirement. For that whole section of their lives, people work relentlessly, often not taking more than 2 weeks holiday off at a time. They bounce from job to job, climbing that career ladder, saving money and buying properties, yet get to the end to question ‘was it all worth it?’  Some do take that leap, and find themselves taking a career break or sabbatical, maybe venturing into their own business, or taking some time out for family. Yet to take a career break in your mid-twenties? That seems to be more than unusual (and as many have told me, not a good idea). To answer these people, I simply say, well, why not? I have spent the past 5 years working hard, learnt my trade, and saved up well. I had assumed these savings were to buy a property as that’s the ‘done thing’, but actually is that really what I want? Why not take the opportunity; go travelling, study, explore other ventures, and then return back into the corporate world after a few years, refreshed, revived and more sure of my ‘purpose’ than ever before?

This break gives me a chance to re-evaluate. To question what it is I actually want to achieve. Instead of following the usual ‘millennial path’ of graduating, landing a top job, climbing the corporate ladder and buying a property, I’m choosing to take a step back. Despite other people’s warnings, this choice will bring me so much than trying to stick out a career I’m questioning. Sure, I may be young for a career break, but why not take it whilst I am young, with no responsibilities or obligations. This is the perfect time to explore other opportunities and enjoy myself, before stepping back into a career, secure in the knowledge that it is the right choice for me, and not just ‘the done thing’.

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