Firstly, I want to say that I know that it was a privilege to take a career break to “figure out my life.” Not many people get this opportunity, so I would like to share how I did it and what followed after. I hope those reading this would find some solace, find some of the tips useful, and venture on their own journey successfully.
I’m always happy to give my thoughts if you comment below or email me at email@example.com.
Preparation of doing a career break
I spoke to a couple of friends who took a gap year to travel, catch their breathe, and to take some rest for their mental health. Many of them agreed on one specific thing: going on a career break and not having something to do was living in a time warp. It was important to plan out your career break and figure out what it was that you were going to do during this time. When you suddenly leave a work filled schedule and quit, you’re left with too much time and your mind wanders.
The way I prepared was quite simple. I saved $10K USD for everything “career break related” and dedicated it to my career break fund. This was working full-time, doing side gigs, and saving aggressively before the big quit.
I mapped out where I was going to be traveling and what projects I would be pursuing full time. It was a loose outline, but I made sure there was some sort of structure or guide I could follow, just so that I had an idea of how I was spending my time off.
The crazy thing is that while I’m working a lot on my projects, it doesn’t really feel like work to me because I’m so excited about it. Even as I sit here in my sister’s dining room with a cup of tea and a leg propped up, I’m happily typing out my thoughts because I love writing and delivering value to readers.
There are the emotional up’s and down’s of taking a “break”
While I spent some time off traveling and sipping mai thais at the beach in Thailand, I felt content and at bliss, but sometimes it would hit me hard that I wasn’t working and not making any income. Generally, I am quite risk tolerant, but suddenly that monthly paycheck wasn’t coming in anymore.
Sometimes, a wave of uncertainty and fear would just wash over me; my eyes would glaze over and I’d be tunneling down in my mind while gazing out. I was not moving forward in my career like my peers were, as well as buying homes, owning a dog, getting married, and the list goes on. The world kept moving on and I was in limbo feeling like I had Peter Pan syndrome.
It is frightening at times to think about it, but I also realize my mind and body desperately needed a break at that time and I was just listening to myself.
I think what is comforting is that I didn’t want a life like other people, at least not right now. All I wanted was to reconfigure and think about where I was headed, and if I was even headed in the right direction. I wanted to pursue my interests, make money, and live a fulfilling life that I wanted. I was making sure I was on the right path before heading down too far—if a career break would help me, then I would take it.
In the time during my career break, I have done all of the following:
Doing things that gave me joy and helped me relax
– binge watched House of Dragons, Bling Empire, and Dubai Empire
– allocated more time to dating and finding a future life partner
– spent more quality time with family and my charming little nephew
– gardened and plucked lemons off the family tree in the backyard
– I had less white hairs growing on my head ha!
I got to explore my creative and business mind
– started a media company Asian Wander Women LLC
– recreated The Fang Girl website and am focusing on turning it into a resource for like-minded friends and travelers because I wanted to document my thoughts and be helpful; this is still a work in progress and I hope you find it helpful
– stumbled into consultancy when my ex-colleagues reached out for help
I stopped looking at LinkedIn
I’m not sure why, but looking at LinkedIn gave me the most fomo (fear of missing out). I felt like I was missing out on interesting career aspects and opportunities. For Instagram, I trained my algorithm to show me cute dog videos, writings, and news.
Funnily enough, I don’t get fomo from Instagram, but from LI, I always feel like I’m left behind in my career and what I do. While I am happy for people in my network, a lot of it was just tooting your own horn, how to be more time efficient, etc. Being on the site was bad for my mental health and how I perceived my self worth, so I avoided it while I was not working. I attach my self worth to work a lot, which is something I am working to get rid of.
I conducted life re-evaluations
My time value – I realized my market hourly rate as a consultant and the value I brought to people was a lot more than I thought. My previous manager brought me on a project and he gave me more than my asking rate, telling me I should have charged higher and nothing less. I guess this was a wake up call about how I perceived myself. Maybe it was due to my childhood and never feeling like I was never good enough, but I realized I made myself small. I forget that I am tenacious and like paving the way.
My energies – I spent more time evaluating how I was spending my energy and who I was giving my time to. It’s not bad to be helpful and speak to people who send cold emails, but I realized how much time I was giving to other people. I couldn’t be helpful all the time, so I decided to be helpful where I could, but if it required more in-depth expertise, I’d charge for my time or point them in another direction.
My many projects – I get excited about all my big ideas. I’m very big picture, but I realized I needed to cut down projects that weren’t serving me anymore. Some projects were fun, but it was draining and I needed purpose or an end goal.
Questions I asked myself over and over again
Who is the person that I wanted to become? What does she look like?
In 5 years, who is Emily?
If we had to only select one project to work on now, what would it be?
What are ways we can streamline and make processes more efficient?
Where do we eventually want to end up?
My advice for those who want to do something similar
Know that your life is limited.
We are not meant to be grinding 24/7 and we’re very caught up in opportunity cost. You can do a career break at any time of your age. I happened to do mine at 28, and I’m sure I’ll do another one again in the future.
It is better to pivot as early as possible, than drag out your life and be miserable towards the end. It’s alright to rest, to take stock of what matters to you, and to realign your personal values with what you want in life.