The Adult Gap Year: Do We All Deserve A Career Break?

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  • Short answer: yes

    We’ll give it to you straight: when we heard that Emma Watson was taking a year off from acting to focus on her own personal development (she’s pledged to read a book a week and launch various HeForShe projects) the better part of us felt admiration, a bigger part of us was jealous. Because a year off sounds SO dreamy.

    And now Ellie Goulding has announced that she intends to take a break from music next year, and we’ll confess: that envy-dominated muddle of feelings is returning.

    In an interview with the Sun, Ellie confirmed her split from Dougie Poynter and revealed her future plans: ‘I’m not in a relationship any more and that’s been hard. Having a break will be a good thing for me and my head… Next year I need to live a bit.’

    We want these to be our future plans.

    All of us can identify with the longing to have a balance-restoring break. Every time you check the news there’s another article about how we’re ‘Generation Burnout’ suffering from work-related stress and soaring anxiety due to long hours and the internet-facilitated demand to be ‘always-on’ and available.

    Let’s start by stating the obvious: a gap year is a luxury most people would struggle to afford. Emma and Ellie’s plans sound like a sure-fire way to soothe your soul, reset your priorities, nourish your brain and refresh your perspective. But a career break could also break the bank if you’re a normal person already struggling to stay out of your overdraft.

    Plus, conventional wisdom dictates that stepping off the ladder before you’ve ‘made it’ is akin to career suicide. Reality check: none of us have achieved Emma/Ellie levels of success, so should we really follow their lead?

    The short answer: yes. If you feel you’re heading for burnout, a time-out might be just the thing to readdress the balance and reignite your passion for work.

    The things you could do with a ‘me-year’! Things like travelling, volunteering, learning, reading, crafting and thinking. You can reaquaint yourself with headspace and then revel in it. Deep joy.

    A word on practicalities: your company might have a sabbatical policy that allows you to take a year-long career break. Alternatively, try and figure out a workable compromise with your employer (eg. taking a few months off, rather than 12). Whatever you do, get the agreement in writing.

    PS: you should probably gear yourself up for a stint of extreme frugality ahead of your break, saving like it’s your job is realistically the only way to make it through a period with no job.

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