Protagion has regular conversations with members and interested individuals about time off from their profession, either with the intention of returning, or as a step towards a new profession (i.e. a career transition).
Professionals’ career breaks can be for a variety of reasons:
Given the multi-decade length of our careers, and our multi-faceted interests, it is natural that we will consider changes as time passes, including permanent roles versus contracting versus consulting. Adapting to different stages is indeed part of lifelong learning, and even “retirement” (perhaps the ultimate career break) is now widely recognised as phased and reversible.
Time off from a profession can be temporary (like Ndivhuwo Manyonga’s decision to “spend time with [her] family and embark on some self-discovery”), or can mark the beginning of a permanent shift (like Susan Cain’s transition from lawyer to writer). The circumstances also impact whether you have the support of your employer to take your career break, including the comfort of a job when you return, which can make it significantly easier.
Another way employers can support their staff is by offering flexible working, a growing trend in many countries. When flexible or part-time work is available, it may be possible to balance both your career and your other interests (depending on the time they require) without the need for a full career break. Our post featuring Christina Dove shared how she uses the flexibility to invest in her own physical and mental wellbeing and to give back, because she believes in “mind, body and spirit equilibrium”.
Read more to see advice from Bethany Mayer, a senior leader in the technology industry, on career breaks and different roles at different phases in our lives.
Susan Cain’s fame ironically stems from her introversion, which gives her first-hand appreciation of the value of quieter environments. And, her work has raised its profile, giving a voice to many introverts and validating their contribution to the world. The TED description to her famous talk “The Power of Introverts” explains this with: “In a culture where being social and outgoing are prized above all else, it can be difficult, even shameful, to be an introvert. But, as Susan Cain argues in this passionate talk, introverts bring extraordinary talents and abilities to the world, and should be encouraged and celebrated.”
As a result of that speech, her books, and the “Quiet Revolution”, Susan is possibly the world’s most famous introvert (or famous because of introversion)… This article describes her personal career transition from lawyer to writer, as well as celebrates the impact she has had, and continues to have, on the world. Read more to discover how she made her professional transition, the emotional aspects and the new skills she built during the change.
I’ve previously written that “one of the best things I ever did in my career was to ‘internationalise’ it”, so regular readers will know that I’m a fan of gaining career experience in different countries. This form of career transition is also a way to disrupt yourself and jump to a new learning curve, helping you put lifelong learning into practice.
The advantages of choosing to live in a new country include getting to travel to new places, meet new people (at work and outside work), possibly learn new languages, and have new experiences.
The upheaval caused by relocating is incredibly stressful though, with even more pressure if your family is moving too. The support of your employer can make it significantly easier, including assistance with moving expenses, visas, finding a place to live in your new country, setting up bank accounts etc.
For employers, the benefits include recruitment of foreign talent, which can bring fresh insights or different skills into the organisation, encouraging all employees to extend their own mindset boundaries. Organisations can achieve this in different ways, including operating across national borders (i.e. being multi-national themselves), and through secondments or assignments, perhaps to/from partner organisations.
Read more to discover research on how living abroad can lead to clearer career-decision making, and to watch a video interview with Heather Brilliant, CFA, about her experiences of working internationally.