Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on FlexJobs.com.
Sometimes, when life becomes overwhelming, you just need a break from work — and a two-week vacation won’t do it.
Whether you’re a parent or other caregiver, have health issues, or are stressed out from overwork or office politics, taking a career pause can give you a chance to recoup your physical and mental health before you burn out completely.
Read on for advice on why you may need a career break, how to take a bigger break from your work situation if you’ve determined a career pause is necessary, and tips to stay in the game if you decide you don’t want to unplug completely.
Reasons To Take a Career Break
Anyone may find themselves in need of a career break at different times in their life and stages of their professional journey. Here are just a few of the reasons that you may find yourself wanting to press the pause button:
- Parenting priorities: If your family is expanding due to a birth or adoption, you may want to take extra time — beyond the leave that your company allows — to enjoy this transition.
- Caregiver responsibilities: Whether or not you have child care to juggle, you may find yourself needing to care for other family members, such as an aging parent or sibling, for an extended stint.
- Health issues: If you’ve been diagnosed with a health condition or are struggling with medical problems, a career break can give you time to explore treatment options and stabilize.
Office politics, bad bosses, cruel co-workers, workplace bullying, harassment, and overwork are some other reasons that you might feel burned out in your job and need to take a longer break.
How To Pause Your Career
While there’s no set formula that determines the best way to take a career break, since individual circumstances will differ, consider these ideas on how to make the pause go more smoothly.
Time It Right
Taking a career break is a big deal — it impacts your career goals and progression while also affecting your colleagues, department, and company.
With this in mind, think carefully about if and when you want to schedule a career pause.
By taking one too soon — perhaps too early in your career when you may want it but not really need it yet — you might limit your future opportunities to play this card, particularly if you find yourself with the same company down the road.
Determine the Pause Length
You want your break to be long enough to accomplish your goals, whether that’s restoring your mental health, giving you the time you need to bond with a new baby, or making a meaningful difference in caring for an older loved one.
Think about whether a few months will be sufficient or if you need more time to do what you hope to do.
Get Your Boss on Board — or Prepare To Go Solo
In some cases and with some companies, you may be able to take a career break while still employed with the organization. Explore the options through your HR department, and if it’s an option, talk to your manager about your potential pause.
If you need a longer break of a year or more, it may mean letting go of the job you have.
In this case, be sure you’re in a financial position to weather the time off, and consider lining up freelance or contract work to tide you over.
Tips To Stay in the Game During a Pause
In some cases, you may want a complete disconnection from your job and professional life while taking a career break. In other cases, you may want to keep a foot in the door with your work.
If you choose the latter approach, here are some strategies that can help you stay in the game even while you’re officially pausing:
- Keep in occasional contact with colleagues: If you’ll be returning to the same company after your career pause, it may make sense to stay in touch with key co-workers while you’re away. This method keeps you on people’s radar screens and also helps you know what’s happening so the learning curve won’t be as steep when you return.
- Sharpen your skills: If you’re taking a longer pause but plan to return to the same industry eventually, think about taking some online courses in your field. By staying up to date with changing technologies and renewing any professional certifications you need, you’ll be more employable after your break ends.
- Read up on your industry: Subscribe to industry newsletters, peruse business publications, and join in social media dialogue about your line of work. Keeping current with industry trends will smooth your path back to work at the end of your career pause.
Reset Your Progress
Taking a career pause doesn’t have to mean a complete break from your job and professional life.
By prioritizing some simple action steps, you can stay in the loop even while getting the mental reset you need.