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Random thoughts, curated sporadically.

Gimme a break

Being in a job that beats the confidence out of you, makes you seriously stressed or sends you insane with boredom is never a good thing. It is tempting to just walk away, even if you have no other job lined up. But whenever I am asked 'should I just quit?', my first instinct is to say 'Nope, find another job first'.

Employers generally don't like employing people who are not currently working.  There is a perception (and it is a perception) that as soon as you walk out the door your capabilities disappear in a puff of smoke. And as time goes on, so too does your experience, knowledge and confidence.  But despite not being embedded in fact, this perception can become reality.

From an employer perspective your career gap does make us a little nervous. Are you lazy? Do you lack direction? Are your skills out of date? We don't know where to put you. But these views are lazy at best and discriminatory at worst.  And the irony is that they discriminate against the very people we now espouse as being highly valuable in our new innovation economy; the risk takers, the adventurers, the curious and those that are drawn to explore life outside a bubble of continuous, lineal employment.

Instead of saying 'no' to all these people when they ask me if they should quit, I should really be challenging those of us responsible for recruitment decisions to re-frame the way we view 'time out', 'career breaks', 'sabbaticals' or whatever term you wish to call a break from work. And this includes re-framing what we believe a valuable gap looks like.

While completing a PhD or climbing Mt Kosciuszko is extremely impressive, are we right to devalue time off for other reasons?  Whether a break is taken to study the life cycle of the flea or to knit the longest scarf for the Guinness Book of Records; the way people choose to spend their time is not what matters.  What really matters is what they got out of the experience. 

Instead of responding with an awkward silence when someone tells you they took a career break, why not ask why they took a break; what they learned from the experience; how it changed them and what they are excited about doing next.

And really, if we can't possibly imagine what people would do with all that spare time, isn't it us that clearly need to explore life outside work a little more?!

So in answer to the question 'should I quit my job?' ... (financial implications permitting), my answer is hell yes. Enjoy it.

 

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