Career Breaks Can Open You To Exciting Opportunities
We are living through difficult times. I know quite a few people who’ve lost their jobs and some others that are wondering if now is the right time to take a career break. While there’s no correct answer, I wanted to share some lessons from my experience of having taken a career break.
A little over four years ago, I quit a full-time career of 15+ years. I took a career break. My life and career have undergone a sea of transformation ever since. I didn’t follow a cookbook or a recipe, but in hindsight, there are a few things I seemed to have done right.
In this article, I want to share five things from what I did, so you don’t have to figure it all out. Before I went there, let me first clarify what a career break means.
What is a Career Break?
Well, a career break is generally a break in one’s career. Sometimes it’s due to an uncontrolled external factor like an illness, childbirth, or a pandemic. But other times, a career break is based on a consciously planned act that one takes.
Some people take a career break to pursue higher studies, and some other people like me take a career break to catch up with family, friends, and life in general.
Now that we are on the same page, here’s what I learned from my experience of taking a career break. Specifically, there are five things I’d like to share with you in this article:
- Letting your curiosity guide you.
- Get uncomfortable.
- Making new connections.
- Solving problems that matter.
- Being open to opportunities.
Let Your Curiosity Guide You
A career break frees you from the shackles of a boss or an employer. Use this time to follow your curiosity. Six weeks into my career break, I started to get uneasy about not having a pre-decided weekly plan. So I decided to do something crazy. I’d been listening to podcasts for a long time. And I thought, what could it take to start one?
In the weeks to follow, I got busy reading about podcasting, marketing, and so much more. And I finally decided to launch a podcast!
But launching a podcast was not as easy as I imagined it to be. That’s because of some elements of starting a podcast that made me feel uncomfortable.
Do Something Uncomfortable
Little did I know that by committing to start a podcast, I was also signing up for something crazier – speaking into a microphone and connecting with strangers!
It also dawned on me that it was not just about connecting with strangers but also persuading them to talk to you. And it didn’t end there. I now needed to find ways to engage these guests, ask intelligible questions, and listen in keenly. The worst of my nightmares came to life when I heard my voice in the interviews I recorded!
Make New Connections
I suddenly was connecting, talking, and engaging with people I didn’t know before. They weren’t just strangers, but many of them turned out to be people that were considered influencers, leaders, experts, and such.
And that’s when something interesting started to happen.
Because I was interviewing these influential guests and asking them questions, others saw me as an expert, influencer, and leader too. I realized the power of social networks when new people discovered my content. My connections suddenly started to expand due to the ripple effect and network effect.
Solve Problems People Care About
I started a podcast because I was curious about podcasting. But on the show, we discussed topics that mattered to my listeners. I also picked my guests whose perspectives I thought my listeners would want to hear.
Here’s what happens when you start creating something people find valuable – people will want more of it. Sometimes this leads to creating more content, but some other times this can result in new opportunities.
Open Yourself to Opportunities
Little did I imagine what would happen next, but it all started with an email I received one fine evening. It was from someone working in a Fortune 500 asking me if I were interested in doing a workshop for their employees at one of their offices.
A rule of thumb I followed ever since was to never say NO to an opportunity that came my way, even if the opportunity didn’t seem to be attractive enough. I discovered my new career because I said YES to every opportunity.
A Career Break Wasn’t Easy.
I was in my mid-30s, having to support my wife and my then 3-year old son. One might argue that’s not the right time to take a career break. But here’s what I realized – there’s no better time than now.
While a career break can help you discover a lot of opportunities, what matters more is you doubling-down on a few of them and turning them into your new career.
It’s Now Your Turn
Whether a career break is a conscious choice or one outside of your control, I urge you to embrace it. Opportunities are waiting on the other side of a YES. I hope you’ll find yours.