Why my career break makes me a better employee

Wow, what an incredible nine months it’s been. I’ve travelled, volunteered, got to grips with all things digital, and more. It’s a story that can’t be told purely by a list of bullet points, though I’m going to try …

Back in July, I wrote down what I wanted to achieve on my career break. On paper, I’ve succeeded at most. But the overwhelming feeling of what my career break has given me isn’t on that original eight-bullet-list.

Instead, it’s one of an ability to see things with new eyes.

Why my career break makes me a better employee. New eyes at Meteora, Greece.

Gaining a fresh perspective of the Meteora monasteries in Greece, October 2014

To see new opportunities as well as new places.

To adapt my preferred learning style to get the results I wanted.

To see the value in online communities as well as those existing in the “real world.”

To get over my reluctance of “bigging myself up” and proactively shout about my achievements and things I’m proud of … a reluctance I was only ever previously able to put aside for job interviews.

Having new eyes has made me more resourceful, and has pushed my existing creativity up a notch or three.

Here are some of my career break highlights, and why I believe these experiences make me a better employee.

I built a self-hosted website, despite not being “techy”

Am I a tech guru? No.

After more than a few head-fuzz moments through market research, analysis of other websites I liked/didn’t like, picking out features I wanted, researching how to get those features, asking questions and participating in forums, digesting multiple pieces of information, getting my head around SEO, and cursing my computer, The Gap Year Edit and its assorted social media channels were born!

Why this makes me a better employee

In “core skills on my CV” terms, digital marketing is now on there. On the technical side, I certainly don’t claim to know all the answers, but with a little resourcefulness and a healthy application of my Prince2 Project Management principles, I can certainly make it happen!

I travelled solo in developing countries and where English language skills were rare

Despite people’s fears that I was going to become a drug lord’s moll or kidnapped by the mafia (the likelihood of both being grossly exaggerated media hype) I had a wonderful time in both Nicaragua and Albania.

I survived perfectly well without hot water for four consecutive weeks in Nicaragua (although I did revel in a hot shower when I arrived home), and had more than a few pass-the-phrasebook and pidgin German/Italian/French conversations in Albania.

In both I managed to find places to stay, cool locals to talk to, a wealth of sites to see, and good food to eat.

And all without being mugged, trapped by a death-defying volcano, killed by a chicken bus, pickpocketed, or otherwise accosted.

Why my career break makes me a better employee. Volcan Telica.

I survived this smokin’ volcano!

In Nicaragua, I also improved my Spanish language skills – you can read more about that here.

Why this makes me a better employee

I embrace versatility and adaptability, and don’t view people or places that are “different” as being negative.

As a very wise mantra says: a country’s duty is to make its citizens feel comfortable.

This willingness to adapt, and even keep a smile on my face after six hours on a chicken bus, is one that’s very handy for dealing with any number of workplace situations and personalities.

I’ve found new ways to make money

OK, not exactly enough to retire on (or fund too many pairs of amaaaaazing Kurt Geiger shoes), but still …

I wanted to explore alternative ways to earn part of my income in the future. My blog has earned a (very) small amount over the last couple of months, and I’m set up with a spot of freelance marketing / communications work too. I now have a short- to medium-term plan for future blog developments (e-books and more), and a medium- to long-term plan for property rental.

Why this makes me a better employee

Entrepreneurial skills have got to be a bonus, right? This time away from my “regular work” means my mind’s been opened up to all sorts of creative possibilities, and I’ve worked out ways to achieve them. I mean, who thought I’d ever want to write a book?

I’ve gained experience in new sectors

I’ve helped a National Charity with their press coverage to aid their fundraising, built an on- and off-line network in the travel sector, and done a spot of freelance travel writing.

Why this makes me a better employee

I’ve shown that my marketing and communications skills are transferrable across industries and sectors.

I’ve learnt to say: “look at me!” (sometimes)

Why my career break makes me a better employee

Spotlight on me … at Albania’s Gjirokaster Castle

If you’d asked me to write this post a year ago I’d have run a mile. “Write about myself, in a big-me-up fashion??” I’d have questioned, whilst shiftily scanning the room for the nearest exit and mentally donning my running shoes. Hell, it might’ve been my first ever half-marathon by the time I’d finished running.

It’s been tricky. After 15 years producing marketing and communications materials that reflect companies’ personalities rather than my own, it’s been a slow adjustment to write in my own voice, rather than those of the companies I’ve worked for.

I can tell I’ve cracked it, because my “own voice” musings mean I now get occasional disapproving texts from my mum 😉

Why this makes me a better employee

I’ve not lost my ability to write in a more corporate tone, or in the voice of Exec types; but my habitual writing repertoire now has another notch on the versatility scale.

My next work challenge

If you’re looking for an experienced marketing and communications professional, I’d love to hear from you. You can find out more about me and get in touch via my LinkedIn profile.

I’m looking for Yorkshire-based freelance or fixed-term contract work, although I would consider a permanent role offering a four-day-week.

For opportunities to work with The Gap Year Edit, click here.

For more on career breaks and how to go about planning yours, head on over to the planning pages.

Have you taken a career break? Did it give you a different perspective when you returned to work? How were you perceived by recruiters and recruiting managers? Share your stories in the comments below.

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2 Responses to Why my career break makes me a better employee

  1. Julia Fisher 13 March 2015 at 7:59 pm #

    Also, a career break where you widen and/or diversify your skills mean that you have done training/personal development in your own time, and at your own cost (not in your future employers time, or at their cost). Sounds like a bit of a win/win to me…….

    • Julie 13 March 2015 at 8:31 pm #

      Thanks Julia, I might pinch that model answer for contract/freelance work interviews/meetings 😉

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