We all get to a point in our careers where we need a break from the day-to-day. We’re running a hundred miles an hour on one project trying to finish on time, only to be immediately tapped for the next one. Often times we are running several projects at the same time with no break in between to simply catch our breath.
While the work can be exciting and engaging, we get to a point where we’re running on empty if we don’t take necessary steps to recharge so we can bring our A-game to the next project. Sometimes we simply require a day or two off, other times we may need to schedule that long overdue vacation, and every so often it might be something more.
I loved working in my last position. I was lucky enough to work with incredibly smart people from all over the world. My boss was fantastic and my colleagues were wonderful. We had great fun as we explored new territory. If we were exhausted or frustrated, we commiserated and bounced back together as a team. Creativity flowed along with great humor. For me, however, I did finally reach a point where I knew it was time to move forward. But first I needed to take a pause – to rejuvenate and reenergize before eventually try something different in a new environment.
Rather than accept a new position immediately, I chose to take a sabbatical of sorts. I wanted to be sure I made the most of my transition time and came out on the other end better for it – ready to bring my evolved self to my next chapter.
I started by developing a list of things I wanted to experience and achieve in my new “free” time, and I made a plan to get started. Let me just say, this has been such a gift for me.
Shortly after my final day on the job, I hopped a plane to Italy and stayed for a month. I parked myself in a small town in Umbria and explored my new temporary home every day. I shopped where the locals shopped, and I cooked practically every meal in my rental kitchen. I drank some great wines, met some wonderful people, went on long walks, and had an amazing time. Disengaging from everything and everyone allowed me to empty the clutter from my mind and rethink what I was looking for next in my life.
Since my return, I’ve taken wine certification and Italian language classes, gone to numerous events and conferences meeting loads of new people, dabbled in online training sites learning to code, reconnected with old friends and colleagues, and gained renewed energy in the evolution of my own personal brand. All in all, it’s been an exercise that has rewarded me in more ways than I could have imagined.
I know taking an extended period of time off is a rare luxury. But if you do find you’re able to take any time in between your next gig, here are some suggestions to maximize your experience. When you do return to the paid workforce, you can show your next employer not only that you made the most of your time, but also that you are now positioned to bring even greater value to your new organization.
- Travel, even short, cheaper trips – get yourself in a new environment to inspire and break from the old.
- Open yourself up to a different culture, new experiences, and new people.
- When you return, carve out office space for yourself at home. Go to your “office” everyday like normal. You want to stay disciplined and not lose the habit.
- Sit down and make a plan for yourself. Set goals and deadlines. Work on these every single day.
- Capture what you learned from your last position / time off / exploration. This is a great way to review what you liked and didn’t like, so you can declare what you want next for yourself.
- Create an education plan. Take courses, invest in yourself, enhance your skillset, learn something new, get certified, and get outside your comfort zone.
- Connect with friends and your network. Let them know what you’re doing and what you’re looking for in the future.
- Attend networking events and conferences and expand your circle. Maybe try to attend one or two slightly outside your industry or profession – it could open up a whole new world.
- Assess your entire online presence and develop a plan to renew or launch based on your current objectives and goals.
- Develop your personal brand and ensure it’s reflective in your online presence.
- Get home projects completed so when you do return to work, home life is organized allowing you to clear your mind and focus on your new role.
- Explore side projects. Once you return to work, side projects can support other outside interests so you stay fulfilled in your job, or they can also be a great source for additional income.
- Refresh and reorganize your clothes closet, preparing for your next chapter.
- Exercise, eat right, and stay healthy. You want to present the best you to potential employers.
- Go on a mission. In a post by Gretchen Rubin, she suggests it’s a great way to have more fun and be happier.
- Go out and explore your city. Act like a tourist and visit places you haven’t seen or haven’t visited in years like museums and art galleries. These are great for creative inspiration.
- For more inspiration and education, explore content on the internet. Bookmark sites that can keep you energized and positive on a daily basis. Or maybe there are sites that can keep you informed of the latest trends in your industry or profession – it’s critical to stay engaged.
- Read books, as many as you can consume.
- Create something. It can be rewarding to have something tangible at the end of the week. Write, create a presentation, blog, make a piece of art, develop an app — whatever you like to do, create in your domain.
- Stay positive and express gratitude every day.
How about you, have you taken your own sabbatical? What suggestions do you have to make the most of the experience?