What if you wake up one morning and there’s NOTHING you absolutely have to do?
The general manager of an all news radio station proposed this to me as a recurring program segment when I left Dallas to join my new husband on an expat posting in the U.K., circa 1991. I had been a weekly on-air contributor for The Bottom Line, as the Business Strategist and had pitched a “What’s Happening in the EU” concept, which he nixed.
Mid-career, in a pre-Internet environment, I was determined to stay visible (and billable) and indeed found a way to continue my consulting business during two years living abroad. No way was I going to tie my brand to a stepping-out-of-the-fray sabbatical concept. Taking a break was not an option, in my mind.
But the radio general manager had tapped into a compelling fantasy for over-burdened listeners who might enjoy a respite from the demands of an increasingly competitive business climate — at the dawn of a cutthroat corporate downsizing era.
Today, if you are a Prime Woman with a solid career and investment foundation, taking a career break is a viable option. Step away from the status quo. Get refreshed. Reinvent, if you want to. Do something. Do nothing. And return to a work routine and challenge that you define and enjoy. If you feel like it. Or need to, financially.
Late career is a delicious time — with more options than early career striving and mid-career maximizing.
Hollywood and “the comeback”
Hollywood invented the concept of “taking a career break” or also known as “the comeback.” Audience tastes change. Marquee value fades, and ageism — sad, but true — plays a role in career longevity. But times change, and new technologies spawn new opportunities. Your talent and track record have not diminished. You can rest, refresh — and rev it back up!
Cher did an elaborate farewell tour in 2014 but the WSJ reports she’s been adding dates to a new concert series in Las Vegas. Jack Nicholson never officially retired, but he turned down roles for seven years. Then BOOM, he signs to co-star in a film currently in development.
When you are in the throes of running a business or your own career, it is hard to clear your brain to even imagine a different opportunity or path. No matter what you call it — retirement, a sabbatical, unretirement — stepping back and taking a career break can be the secret to your happiness.
The key is to remain visible and clicked in to what is happening– much easier in today’s world of social media. Then, you can take time to find what might interest you. Or maybe something will find you!
Here are some tips if you are considering a career break:
If you are leaving a long-time career slot, be sure people can connect with you via text, email or social media outlets. If you had a company-issued mobile phone in a job you are leaving, request that they coordinate with the provider to release the number to you as part of the exit process.
Consider Your Contact Info
You will need an email address. Gmail is fine, but don’t do Yahoo, Hotmail or AOL. Consider obtaining a mailing address that is not your home, i.e. The UPS Store or other local resource. Make a “business card” that you can hand out, as you choose. These are easy to design via Vistaprint or other resource. You only need to indicate name + mobile number + email address. Be mindful of security and privacy issues when you leave the comfort and convenience of an office address.
Keep Your Shingle Out
LinkedIn is now the biggest business/career directory in the world. Like the old-fashioned Yellow Pages, it is how people find you, except it is a living document that can be revised anytime you choose. Prime Woman contributor Victoria Tomlinson has some excellent content on how to maximize your LinkedIn profile.
You’re not dead. You’re only taking a break. We are living in the instantaneous world of Amazon One Click. Not responding to texts, emails, phone calls or on-line requests from those you care about drive people crazy. Nothing says “old” faster than “Oh, I didn’t have my iPhone with me…” Yes, there are technology glitches that occur. But don’t stop living in the modern world!
The Power of the Tribe
Taking a break from previous work obligations frees you to explore new, or longstanding, interests. You can also keep up with your previous career-oriented organizations, if you choose. Being around lively, smart women is always inspiring. Join new groups. Attend meetings, lectures and events. It is good to have an array of invitations coming into your inbox if you are taking a break. You don’t have to do the work of organizing something, simply RSVP yes or no! (Promptly!)
Give yourself permission to change your mind. You can explore a path and decide no, it’s not for me. You don’t have to worry about being a jobhopper and damaging a career track. Nothing is irreversible when you are taking a break. Think sampling and selectivity. Not over-committing. This is the beauty of re-invention and re-directing when you are a Prime Woman. YOU are the DECIDER.