CAREER BREAK- Using Time Off Work Productively



You may have personally experienced the “9 and a half year itch” as I would tend to call it. Those who have passed through over 20 years of industry experience would have faced this itch at some point or other in their careers.

After every 9 years or so, those who are bored of routines and seeing same business routines, tend to look for a change within or outside the organization that will fulfill their needs for more challenges. This is a healthy sign especially in senior management roles when it is mutually beneficial for organizations and individuals. The organization can provide opportunities for others lower down the levels to raise to such positions and try their ideas or look for outsiders who can bring in a new perspective to leadership and provide solutions out of box.

The individual also knows that after some level irrespective of the organisation’s own career development plans that are not very well known, the certainty of his or her going to the next level cannot be taken for granted. For instance, there can only be one leadership spot and many managers may clamour for the same. Though there are cases where an individual has grown through the ranks to reach the top, it is commonly known that for every such case there are at least 12 others who did not manage to get the coveted post. There are also issues of acceptability of others who have been peers and have therefore been contenders to the same position.

If you are a senior management professional in Corporate sector and have reached a stage when you did not get to move further ahead or forced to take a break and wish to evaluate the options for the balance period of your active career the following suggestions can help you to on how to effectively use such time and also evaluate your options:

Enjoy your break

Everyone deserves to take a break which is a taboo in India, especially if one has risen to the top through his / her ambition and passion to succeed. A severe burnout is quite common in corporate world when each target is increased and bars are raised everyday and therefore it is necessary to consider such break as a great opportunity to recuperate from all the stress that unconsciously piled up over the years. However for those who did not know or have never done anything other than getting up in the morning and go to work, it will be extremely difficult to digest the fact that on the Monday following the weekend, there will be no need to even get up from the bed so early as you were doing daily. All routines will come to a standstill and it is at this point that one should make sure that he or she does not get depressed.

How can you use a break in career?

The first priority in such occasions is to plan a routine that is different from the 9 to 8 grind you went through over the last 3 decades. Though this is quite easier said than done, the first thing one must do is to mentally accept that the break is inevitable and therefore should be made best use of. Age is no bar for many things that were taboo a few years ago. So, while you are on the lookout for the next assignment, you can think of the following ten things and more:

Build a good physical health routine – hit the gym if you are a freak or spend more time mornings and evenings in the park next door and walk a lot. Make sure to adjust your diet according to your new regime and cut on your coffee and tea that you probably kept having every hour or two during those stressful last few years.

Acquire new skills- Realise that the next 10 years will be far different from the last 30 years of your career and therefore try and gain as many new skills as possible. For instance learning a new foreign language or instrumental music or any other form of art can be extremely satisfying while helping you to fill up at least 3 hours of your day. If the break is long enough and you have the ability and willingness to do research, take up topics that excite you and have been put on cold storage or backburner since long for want of time.

Learn to do things you have never done before- Try to think of things that you have never done before and make your mind to accept them. For instance, you can think of cooking and helping your family or cleaning the house and use all the techniques of 5S you learnt in your office to be applied to your home. You can bowl your spouse and kids over completely by these gestures of showing that you care for them.

Know who are near & dear ones or ask them to visit you- Normally we avoid meeting people who tend to ask you what you are doing and will never be happy to hear that you are not doing anything! But a break time is the real time when you can clearly distinguish the really close ones from others. Tell them you have all the time in the world and would like to visit them and you can easily make out who you can turn to in times of need. Also look for those who will value your visit and consider you as someone with whom they can share their thoughts.

Pen your thoughts on significant events in your journey so far- Not everyone is good at writing an interesting autobiography and not every such work is useful to all, but it will still be a great idea that you pen your own experiences and significant events that you were part of over the years. At least your sons and daughters will read them out to their kids and be proud of having you as their parents.

Plan your finances for the next 10 years- Since you are not sure of where your next assignment will take you, consider all your commitments and accordingly plan your investments and disinvestments to meet the ends. For instance, if you still have a daughter or son who is doing higher studies or due for marriage or consolidating a property, think and plan the expenses accordingly.

Catch up on your spiritual side of things – visit shrines and temples as per your own beliefs and traditions and spend time on anything that provides you peace of mind – join bhajans & prayers in temples, mosques & churches or do seva in Gurudwaras and Ashrams.

Read everything you wished to know on some subjects that suffered for want of time- It is great to get time for catching up with the books that you wanted to read since years. Talk to connoisseurs of books who can help you with good choices of great works to read. Perhaps your eyes would get tired much more than in the past, but your craving will be satisfied. Make sure you get your eyes checked and wear right glasses to suit your reading. E-book readers like Kindle can help you to increase the size of text to suit your vision.

Help your society and organise “Giving” sessions – start a venture that you or your spouse can continue to look after even after you find your next assignment. Nothing is more satisfying than seeing someone who can use things that you do not need but have hoarded in the hope of using since many years. So, develop the habit of giving things before you think of buying new. A regular fortnightly “giving” session can be a great thought. Your family will be very happy to see you cleaning the house!

Teach stuff that you and only you can to those who are curious to learn from someone like you- Keep such audience relevant and sessions short enough to capture and sustain attention. Take up topics that you know very well about. Even if the audience is just one individual, you will have great satisfaction of having passed on stuff you know or learnt with great pain. More importantly, it is also strongly advised to resist yourself from being drawn into conversations about things that went bad in your career and avoid gossips about colleagues and superiors.

More importantly, it is also strongly advised to resist yourself from being drawn into conversations about things that went bad in your career and avoid gossips about colleagues and superiors.

Author- Seshadri Srinivasan, In April 2007, at 42, he became Managing Director of the Indian entity of a French MNC, M/s. Faiveley Transport a pioneer in railway rolling stock sub-systems. He is currently helping companies who needs his advises with strategies for growth, performance & compliance


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