After I sold our family business, I was fortunate enough to have the time and resources to take a career break, or sabbatical. I absolutely needed it after grinding it out every day for five years while running the business, but, I made the mistake of going into it without a proper game plan and ended up wasting a lot of time staying stuck in old cycles and thought patterns. Here are my top three biggest regrets from my career break:
- Over-planning and setting too many goals
This was the first time in my career that I had a completely open calendar, so my first instinct was to fill it up as much as I possibly could. I thought this would make me excited to get out there and try all these new things, but it actually ended up having the opposite effect. I became so overwhelmed by all the options I had laid out for myself, that I ended up only doing a handful of the items I’d planned for.
If I could go back in time, I would have only chosen two or three general topics or categories that I wanted to learn more about, improve upon, or get involved with, and from those categories, I would have picked a couple of activities for each. By limiting it to only two or three topics, you give yourself the time and space to give 100% of yourself to each activity, be present, and gain the full benefit from it. It should be about growing and learning from each experience – not simply checking things off of a list.
- Obsessing over figuring out “what’s next?”
Up until this point, all of my career decisions had effectively been made for me, so it was a little scary for me to not have anything lined up after I sold the business. I had lost the sense of security that I’d had for my entire professional life, so my first instinct was to try to get that back as soon as I could. I immediately started applying to any position that was even remotely close to what I’d done before. I had some good interviews and received a few offers, but I realized that I was simply chasing the feeling of having a job, and that I actually didn’t want any of the roles I applied to. The entire process made me more confused and set me back from finding what I really wanted to do next.
What I wish I’d done instead is taken an actual break from the job search, reflected on what I enjoyed doing, what I was good at, and what value I wanted to bring to a role, and then began exploring based on those parameters.
- Allowing others people’s opinions to affect my mindset
You know how it goes – you’re catching up with a friend or family member, and they say “well have you tried applying here?” or “maybe you should go back to school?” These are all well-meaning suggestions, but when you’re already feeling uncertain about your next step, it’s easy to allow these opinions to take over your thoughts, and add to the overwhelm you’re experiencing. On top of that, you may even end up feeling resentful of that person, and blaming them for your inability to make a decision.
It took me hiring a therapist and a coach to break out of this thought pattern, and I only wish I had been conscious of it sooner. The lesson I learned here is to trust your inner voice, but make sure that it’s actually yours, and not someone else’s.
If you’re on a career break, or maybe even newly laid off, my advice to you is this: Simplify your search, take time to reflect on what you want, and keep the focus on you. If you want to chat and see if coaching can help you in your journey, click the link below to contact me or send me an email at [email protected]