Jennifer Larson (SOLUTIONS GRANTED, INC.) explains why it’s okay to take a career break and how taking a break revived her work and life.
I Knew I Needed a Break from Work
One Friday evening in February, after a long week at work, I had an epiphany. After thinking about the week, the months before, and even touching on a few moments from past years, I told my partner “I need a break.”
I realized at that moment I was searching for – and needed – something more than a one- or two-week vacation. Let’s face it, vacations can at times be just as hectic as a work week. During the majority of my vacations, I can’t switch off my work mind. I worry about a project, a teammate, a policy change, a new client, an existing client. You get the gist of it. Vacations are less of a break and more of a change in scenery.
Why I Needed a Break from My Career
That night I pinpointed why I had this overwhelming urge to take a break from work.
I started working at a third-party collection agency right out of high school. It was my first “real job”. Full-time, health insurance, vacation time, and the possibility to earn commissions. Did someone say commissions? I was all in.
I started as a small balance collector, excited for the opportunity to prove myself. My motivation at the time was my daughter. Becoming pregnant in high school was one of the biggest pivot points of my life. During that time, a teacher told me, “You will become a welfare statistic and so will your daughter.”
Thank you to that human who added fuel to my fire to succeed.
Throughout my professional career I made it a point to learn all that I could. I wanted to know the details, the ins and outs, the big picture. I learned about project management, auditing, quality assurance, leadership, empathy, client relations.
Fast forward to April of 2021.
I always believed that if you were loyal to a company then the company would take care of you. I learned that’s not always true. The company I was so loyal to, that taught me so much, was facing closure. I could no longer trust them to take care of me.
My intuition, had I listened, told me I should have made a move or departure sooner, for growth. There are two little words that hindered me from making that move: comfort and fear. Now I was forced to face those fears and get on with it.
After a night of crying and feeling sorry for myself, I woke up and got to work. That day I started reaching out to my network on LinkedIn, my family and friends. I let everyone in my world know I was searching for my next professional opportunity. I kept saying to myself “Do one thing that gets you closer to where you want to be tomorrow.”
After a few hectic weeks of searching, navigating, applying for positions, and making calls, I was hired at a digital collection agency. I want to mention how important having a network of people is. My “in” at the company that hired me was a referral from a friend I met at the Women in Consumer Finance conference. Networking put me on a path to another opportunity. Don’t sleep on networking, engaging with others, and genuinely getting yourself out there.
While employed at the new gig, I grew more than I had in several years. I learned new software, ticketing systems, how to talk to engineers, and I worked alongside some of the most talented people I’ve ever known. I even made a few friends along the way.
Around this time, I sold my house and moved to my dream property–a modest home sitting on five acres just outside of Charleston, South Carolina. My goal is to create a space that supports my family life and is designated as a certified wildlife habitat. My mom moved onto the property with us as well. She’s nearing the time in her life where I hope to provide her with some peace, quiet, laughs, good dinners, and a few shenanigans.
My Sudden Realization that I Needed Time Off
This brings me back to that Friday night in February. I was sitting outside on my back deck looking at our woods, listening to birds, and sharing time with my guy. In a moment of pure peace, I realized how stressful the last 5 years were and I knew I needed a break.
I had some money left after the sale of my house, a bit of a safety net. And, my partner was supportive in the decision. He simply said “We got this. I got you”.
How I Re-Charged
That Monday I submitted my two-week resignation. I waited for a chest gripping panic attack to set in. A “holy moly what have I done?” moment. A “can I have that piece of paper back?” realization. None of those happened.
Instead, quite the opposite happened. I felt calm, relieved, and excited. I had all of those feelings with no plan, no agenda, and no job lined up…
I’ll admit, this goes against all that I am. I’m a planner. I’ve never not had a job lined up. But I let myself have this time. I made it a point to enjoy the little things and be present. I went on walks, made dinner, had bonfires, planted trees, read books, watched the X-Files, and took a few siestas. For once I felt totally at peace, well rested, and mentally sharper. I had time to process some past occurrences, write in my journal, and really figure out what I wanted to do next.
Re-Entering the Work World after My Career Break
When I was finally ready to close the door on my time off, I felt completely refreshed, energized, clear minded, excited, and ready to take on my next opportunity. My break helped me create new goals both personally and professionally. It made me a better parent, partner, friend, human, pet mom, and all around person.
Should You Take a Break?
I encourage anyone and everyone, if you have the ability to do so, to take the break you think you need. Listen to your intuition, see the signs, and allow yourself the gift of time. Lean into your support systems. Lean into your network and life cheerleaders. At the very least, trust that faint voice that tells you to slow down a bit.