Earlier this year I experienced my breaking point when it came to my job. My manager had arranged a digital marketing training session for the company – a topic I was keen to learn more about as I wanted to improve my skill-set in the area. When it came to booking a date to fit around ‘the whole team’, I found that the training was arranged during the vacation time I’d booked off. After asking my manager whether another session could be arranged which I could participate in, I was given an awkward excuse that it would be an extra expense for the company to provide the training “just for you” and that they did their best to fit it around as many people as possible. It was just unfortunate oversight I did not make the cut. What a silly and totally unavoidable coincidence!
This was one of many instances that contributed to my decision of quitting my job and no less during a pandemic. Incidents like these made me realise that I was only there to keep things ticking along whilst being sidelined on a regular basis.
Back in April, my employer told me that I would be placed on furlough so that they could counteract business losses caused by the pandemic. The UK government introduced the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme this year in an effort to save businesses and jobs. The government scheme pays 80% of an employee’s wages monthly, up to £2,500. After being told this news from my employer, I was low-spirited. Being put on furlough made me feel disposable. If my colleagues could do my work, well…was there any point of me being there at all? Not to mention the extreme bouts of guilt that came with being paid whilst not doing the work.
Let’s not forget that I was not alone in this journey. The most recent government stats show that 9.6 million people were furloughed in the UK as part of the job retention scheme, that’s 29% of the total workforce in the UK. Along with the 9.6 million on furlough, we lost the daily structure in our lives that gave us a purpose.
To overcome my feelings of guilt, I did everything I could to be productive with my time. Initially, I applied for jobs, but soon grew frustrated with the process. The constant application and interview rejections made me doubt my potential. I knew I had to think logically about the job hunting process, especially as the job market was becoming increasingly competitive due to so many people searching for jobs during this period. But my mind always wandered back to my negative thoughts. I would bury my mind deep into a realm of self-doubt, disappointment and worthlessness in myself.
My mum, who could see what I was facing, said to me, “Why are you punishing yourself? You need to give yourself a break and enjoy the time that you have with your family”. She was right, I broke down under the realisation of what I was doing to myself. I thought I was being driven and pushing myself, not punishing. I couldn’t relax because I feared that if I did I would end up taking a defeatist attitude to my career and ambitions.
After opening up to my mum, I decided to stop applying for jobs. Despite the 750,000 jobs lost since March this year in the UK, I couldn’t fathom the thought of clicking ‘send’ on another job application.
Once I made that decision, I took the time to look after my mental and physical health through relaxation and exercise, spent time with my family at home and looked for ways to boost my personal development. This included taking online courses, volunteering for charities and creating my own blog. I learned to enjoy my time rather than feeling guilty.
In August, I was asked by my employer to return to work. I knew immediately I didn’t want to go back. After several months of not working, I finally admitted to myself that I wasn’t happy with my role. I didn’t feel challenged and in-demand compared to my colleagues. My potential there wasn’t fully explored.
Having the time away from work helped me to reflect on this and allowed me to explore other avenues where I hope to eventually get an income from. After reviewing my finances, working out my future plans and talking to family and friends, I resigned from my job. I felt a weight had been lifted off my shoulders once I made this decision (even though I wasn’t moving into another employment opportunity). Stepping away from being an employee has felt liberating. I’ve been able to choose my own personal projects, such as freelance writing and move at a pace that works for me.
Remind yourself regularly why you have embraced this choice and the positive changes you want to see in yourself during this period.
I know that taking a career break is a big decision to make and, of course, not everyone has the privilege of choosing this option when children need to be fed and electricity needs to stay on. If you’re considering taking a career break, I recommend going through these following steps to help you make the right decision for you:
- Ask yourself why you want to take a career break. Do you need to take a breather and relax? Do you feel burnt out? Do you dislike your job? Will you use the time to work on changing your career path? Be honest with yourself to reap the benefits.
- Determine how long you want to take a career break for and what you would like to do once your career break has finished. Map out a timeline to help you contemplate this further.
- Review your finances to consider how long your money will last you during your break.
- If you would like to return to your job, see whether your company can grant you a sabbatical. Sabbaticals are different from a career break as you have the security of returning to your role.
- Would you like to take reduced hours instead of taking a career break? If so, ask your employer whether they would honour this.
- Have an open discussion with your family and friends. They can help you along your journey and may be able to offer you a different perspective you hadn’t considered.
After following all of these steps, you’ll be able to make an informed decision on whether taking a career break is the right path for you. For me, I’m taking it day by day and enjoying the freedom the career break has given me. I’m filling my time by exploring my potential, spending time with my loved ones and rejuvenating my body and mind. If you decide to take a career break, remind yourself regularly why you have embraced this choice and the positive changes you want to see in yourself during this period. That’s what I did and I do not regret a moment of this journey.
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