Planning a
Career Break

The number of people taking career breaks is increasing. And they’re doing it for many reasons - starting their own business, learning new skills, starting a family or travelling the world.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics1, around 4% of employees have taken a career break of six months or more. It also revealed that 73% of women took a career break for ‘family reasons’, whereas 47% of men took a break for ‘personal reasons’.

Applying for a career break is your chance to escape your everyday routine and learn something new. But before you rent out your home, throw a farewell party and take the plunge, here’s some things to consider so you make the most of this once (or possibly twice) in a lifetime opportunity.

Plan in advance – it’s important to plan ahead and negotiate your career break with your employer at least six months in advance. This way, you’ll have everything at work organised and you’ll leave on a good note.

Give your break a purpose – a career break shouldn’t just be about taking time out from work. You don’t want to be stagnant and lose motivation, so plan what you want to do, like learning a new skill, focusing on a passion, having children, starting your own company or travelling. 

Have enough savings – Try our new Career Break calculator to understand what living expenses you’ll need for your break, then save enough (plus more) before you leave. It’s also a good idea to set up an emergency fund with three to six months’ worth of living expenses in it as a back-up.

Pay off debt – ideally you want to be debt free when you start your break, so it’s important to curb your spending, and put every cent into paying off credit cards (if you have them).

Get healthy – the first stage of your journey may be mentally and/or physically taxing, so staying healthy and fit will help you deal with the challenges ahead.

What to do after your break?

Towards the end of your career break, you’ll need to start preparing for your return to the workforce. Following are some things to think about.

Get prepared – update your resume to include any courses, qualifications and experiences you’ve had, such as volunteering, which may help with your job search.

Sell the benefits – decide how you want to position the benefits of your extended leave to a potential employer, for example, a new perspective or skill set.

Leverage your network – make a list of contacts, including recruiters, who may be able to connect you with potential employers and work opportunities.

Be open to change – use the perspective you've gained from your break to decide what you want from your career and go for it.

Choose reinvention – work hard to avoid the ‘repeat button’. You only have one life, so take the learnings from this experience and make the most of your new chapter.

Career breaks are an ever increasing part of our work lives. Take the opportunity to reinvigorate and refresh, then plan your next career based on the new you. It could be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make.


1 Australian Bureau of Statistics, Career Experience, Australia, Nov 2002,[email protected]/mf/6254.0