It didn’t take long for Louise to figure out early on in her career that she had a knack for administration. Transferring from retail to office work, she quickly worked her way up the ladder to hold a senior position within a membership organisation that she loved. However over the years as her responsibilities increased and external pressures impacted the organisation, Louise began to feel a looming sense of burn-out. Without enough hours in the day to get things done, yet still wanting to do right by her employer, she couldn’t shake the feeling that she was running on empty, and something had to give.
Though Louise didn’t realise it at the time, her workload was causing her extreme anxiety, making switching off at the end of the day almost impossible and causing her to doubt her own abilities. After a lot of soul-searching she realised it was time to make a drastic change, and the best way to do that would be to step away from work all together. She was about to do what many people only dream about doing: taking a career break.
Before taking the plunge, Louise made sure that she had a good understanding of her family’s financial situation. She worked out a budget and discussed options and ideas with her husband. It took six weeks from the light-bulb moment of realising she needed to be pro-active about her situation to actually going on a break.
Thankfully, having a close working relationship with her boss meant that when Louise did make the decision to take a break, it was a conversation that whilst difficult to have, was met with understanding and support. She feels that part of the reason it worked out so well was because she kept her boss in the loop around how she was feeling. This ensured that nothing came out of left field or left anyone in the lurch.
Before officially taking a break, she arranged for a temp to cover the basics of her role and wrote a comprehensive “how to” manual for her position. She also took the time to sit down and redirect some of her responsibilities to other staff members – an exercise that quickly proved to her why she had been feeling so stressed in the first place! She admits that if she had done something like that sooner, perhaps she wouldn’t have gotten to the point of needing a break!
Initially it was decided that she would take five months off as leave without pay. However as the end of those five months drew nearer, Louise knew deep down that she wasn’t ready to go back yet. She made the difficult decision to hand in her resignation, but by being open and transparent with her Chief Executive, she was offered the opportunity to remain with the organisation as a contractor to work on a specific project. This allowed Louise to continue supporting her former colleagues, without taking on the stress of her previous full time role. Once that project was completed and having experienced how refreshing the break had been so far, Louise decided she wouldn’t return back to full time work unless she was absolutely sure it was going to be the right opportunity for her wellbeing.
So what did Louise do with her time away from the working world? She made the most of it by doing all the things she didn’t have time for before: getting outdoors, travel, baking, crafting, family holidays – really taking the time to be “selfish” and do what made her happy.
Louise is adamant that if you feel that you need a break, then there is no need to feel guilty about taking one. However it is important to be open with your manager about how you are feeling. In this case, it led to other options for Louise that wouldn’t have been available if she hadn’t spoken up. Her advice is to trust in your own skills and abilities. When the time comes to get back into the workforce, don’t fixate on finding another permanent role right away. She suggests exploring temping or fixed term options first – that’s certainly what she did!
Having already registered her details with McLaren Associates, we kept in touch with Louise during her time out of the workforce. We worked together to help build back confidence in her own abilities and the job-hunting process, providing support and guidance along the way. Again Louise was open and honest about her situation, feelings of doubt, and what she did and didn’t want in a role going forwards. This helped us know what opportunities to approach her about so that when interesting administrative based temping options did come up, we could simply get in touch with Louise to see whether she would like to be considered. Through this process and once she was ready to, she took on two temporary assignments with unique organisations, completely different to where she had been before. Feeling refreshed and reinvigorated she impressed at both jobs, so much so that her second temping assignment turned into a permanent job offer. She hasn’t looked back since!
So whatever your reason, if you are considering taking a break but are worried about the implications, take a leaf out of Louise’s book – do your planning, be open about your intentions with your manager, and keep in touch with us so that when you are ready to go back to work, we can help you find the right opportunities.
Kirsty and Nikki