I’ve left my last role at the end of July, and since then, I’ve had what some would call a ‘career gap’, or if you are a bit more positive a ‘career break’. I would call it ‘a pause’.
This post is about what I’ve been up to and why I think career break should not be seen as negative.
Can you explain this gap in your career?
This is often a dreaded question in an interview. Somehow, not working is seen as suspicious and has to be justified. I’m going through the vetting process for a contract starting soon (hopefully!) and I have quite a few gaps to justify from the last 4 years.
Here is what I was asked once during a vetting process for a gap of 5 weeks:
We are now at the stage of your screening where we must ask you to provide supporting documents for the below period of unemployment. Please provide evidence such as:
- Emails showing job applications
- Emails confirming job interviews
- Benefit documents (if claiming)
Extract from an email from a vetting agency
- Bank statements
The feeling is that, if you are not working or not looking for work, something must be wrong with you.
We all need money so usually people try to find a new job before they resign from their current one and jump on to another. I have a lot of practice, sometime finishing on a Friday somewhere and starting on Monday in the next place. It feels like it’s the expectation. But it’s not great. Because we do need breaks.
When you have a job, it’s hard to stop and reflect. Even when you don’t like your job anymore, thinking about it is painful and you tend to make up reasons to stay because changing feels risky.
Taking a career break
There are many reasons why people end up not working, it might be chosen or not. Thinking about it as a break, instead of a gap is better. Even if the reason you stopped was negative (being let go, having to care for someone, being unwell or burned out) you can still take a lot from that break: learn about yourself, try different things, learn something new, meet new people.
Depending on your financial situation, not knowing what’s next can be extremely stressful, but it might also be your chance to change for something that is better for you.
I’ve had a lot of career breaks, some I had decided myself, others where I felt I had no choice but to stop. They all were opportunities for me to try something new, reassess what I could do and learn about myself.
What I’ve been doing with my time
It’s been a bit more than 2 months now. I’ve done a lot and I’ve really enjoyed the extra time.
- learn about contracting
- looked for contracts – this is very time consuming and you should not get too attached to what’s coming to you as it often just disappears as quickly as it appeared on the first place 😉
- started a document on behalf of UX Glasgow to help people find UX job, this is a work in progress and you can comment in there to help us improve it
- dealt with a lot of apples from the garden (lots of crumbles and other baking), the rhubarb, the berries, and lavender (as shown on the collage in this blog post)
- attended and spoke at SDinGOV – met a lot of people and got more speaking opportunities from it
- adapted my talk on ‘Inclusion’ for a wider audience for the Innovation week, a Brazilian event, so had to provide a bit more context and learn about accessibility and digital capability in Brazil – Big thank you to Daniel Souza for this opportunity
- woking with Clare Welch on another talk for junior user researchers working in government which we are giving at the start of November – Big thank you to Alexandra Ciocănel for this opportunity and to Clare for jumping right in it
- caught up with many people, online or face to face
- I also watched a lot of Netflix! probably too much
- read a few books and a lot of things I had bookmarked for a long time
- I missed Accessibility Scotland unfortunately but I’m looking forward catching up with the recordings once they will be available
- attended other events online or face to face like Girl Geek Scotland – Thanks Jenny Björkman – or speaking at a recent event from UX Glasgow with Charlie Kleboe-Rogers and Bobby King
- coming soon as well there is the Magnify conference, online, you can still get your ticket and register to workshops
If all goes well, I only have a few weeks left of ‘freedom’. After a short trip to France, I’ll be starting on a contract and looking forward to it even though I really enjoyed the time off.
It was more a pause then a career break. This was very much needed and allowed me to do a lot professionally even though a recruiter or employer might see it as a ‘gap’. For me, it was definitely positive.