Dispelling career break myths

Jul 09, 2019

For many of us the idea of a career break is invigorating. But it can be daunting too. What about our family commitments, the financial considerations or the impact on our careers?

Here we take a look at the types of career breaks, and explode a few well-worn myths that could be keeping us from taking the plunge.

Types of career breaks

A career break is defined as someone who takes time out from their professional career with the intention of returning. And there’s no hard and fast rule about the length of time people can take. Career breaks typically last from between 1 month and 2 years, although many people take longer – if they’re raising a family, for example.

A career break can be planned or unplanned, some of the reasons may include:

  • Redundancy
  • Travel
  • Voluntary work
  • Studying/training
  • Caring
  • Maternity/paternity/adoption leave
  • Raising children
  • Sickness- this is applicable to both physical and mental illness

Myths about career breaks

When you’re considering a career break there are some myths and barriers that may deter you.

“I can’t afford it” 

This is one of the biggest concerns. Being without regular pay for a period of time, and the implications this may have on your personal situation, can certainly cause sleepless nights. How much will it cost per month? Do I have enough set aside? Sufficient planning should reduce the impact of being unpaid for a length of time, but sometimes this isn’t always possible.

If your career break hasn’t been planned then the financial implications can be more than a little daunting. CA Support can help you plan and budget your money to support you during this time. We can also help you research and claim any benefits you’re entitled to and in some circumstances we may be able to offer short term financial assistance.

“My employer would never accept it”

There are currently no government guidelines on career breaks; it’s at the employer’s discretion. However, many employers do have processes and procedures in place for those wishing to take a career break. In some cases, employers actively encourage it. 

And even when no such procedures are in place, a term of unpaid leave can be negotiated, as employers are reluctant to lose experienced and valued members of staff.

When approaching your employer, it may be helpful to have a formal proposal of your career break that outline the benefits to yourself and the employer, your flexibility about the best time to do this, suggestions for cover and the skills and experience you will gain that can be used on your return.

“I don’t want a gap to affect my career”

Many companies are impressed with employers that show initiative and take a career break, especially if they are articulate in expressing the benefits that they will gain. For example, taking care of a relative can show problem-solving skills and patience.

During your career break it’s good to try and keep your knowledge up-to-date and utilise existing skills, as well as learning new ones. You could try volunteering. It’s is a great way to experience new cultures, make a positive impact and gain more knowledge.

Benefits of taking a career break

Whatever your reasons for taking a career break, a change from the normal day-to-day routine holds many unexpected benefits: it can produce an objectivity and perspective that’s only created from taking time away; it may reignite a passion for the career; offer opportunities to gain new skills and much more. From an employers perspective, a career break can often return refreshed, newly motivated and increasingly loyal staff.

It really can be a win-win!

Article reproduced with the kind permission of CABA, the organisation providing lifelong support to ICAEW members, ACA students and their close family around the world.