I have committed a taboo – I have tendered my resignation without securing the next job.
The reactions to the announcement were varied but they all pretty much hint at a deep sense of disapproval.
“Why did you do that?” It was as if I had renounced my faith.
“What are you going to do from now on?” Almost as though a misfortune had incapacitated me.
“What does your family have to say about it?” As if I had offered to cook for the next family dinner.
I was, and still am, certain of my reasons and motivations for the resignation. However the response I received got me thinking about why people are so concerned about the gaps in their careers.
The developed world evolved from an agricultural economy to an industrial economy to the service age, then to the knowledge economy in the late 1990s and 2000s marked by breakthroughs in technological innovations and competition for innovation with new products and processes that develop from the research community. According to The Work Foundation, the knowledge economy is driven by the demand for higher value added goods and services created by more sophisticated, more discerning, and better educated consumers and businesses.
In my opinion, if the economic landscape has changed, why should our approach towards employment remain the same, to the point of being archaic?
I have heard horror interview anecdotes of candidates being unforgivingly grilled on why they left one job without first securing the next, never mind the accolades achieved during the tenure with the recently departed organisation. Unless the candidates’ reasons hinge on family and/or a health crisis, the interviewer’s doubts and suspicions tend to run awry.
There are virtues to taking a break before moving on to the next job; because it is a career that all meaning-seeking humans want, and not simply a paycheck.
The most critical part when planning for a hiatus is addressing the question “why you are doing it”. Without thinking through “why”, you can easily take a six-month break and end up in the same unsatisfying place.
After thinking through, I put forth the following four reasons for taking a hiatus:
1. Detox and Re-boot
Before you land yourself in the next job, it is important to let go of any emotional baggage and address physical ailments that you have accumulated during your previous employment. These issues can include tensions with your superior, disagreements with a co-worker, demanding clients, stress-related health problems such as hair loss, body aches, sleep disorders, etc.
Run, join a yoga class, meditate, consult your doctor – get your mental and physical health back on track.
It is important that we enter into our next phase of career with a brand new frame of mind, one that is not tainted by previous experiences.
2.Reflect, Take Stock
While in employment, we are inevitably consumed by “busy-ness”. In the flurry of activities, we often fail to take stock of our lives and fall behind planning and executing plans to fulfill educational and personal development goals.
It is essential that we look back on what we have accomplished at the previous workplace and contemplate on whether previously set goals have been attained; which areas have we performed well; and which aspects need improvement. Doing so can help us identify what we want out of our next job.
The break is also timely for us to re-visit our work motivations, philosophy and ethics as we move forward to ride the next wave of our career.
“A discerning employer will appreciate your confidence, common sense and insights instead of focusing on the void in your resume.”
3. Getting to Know Yourself Again
Last year, when I was contemplating taking a break from work, I was concerned that I would lose my bearing without a job. I had grown so comfortable in my professional title that I was afraid to face the world in my own skin – the skin that had marked my individuality in the past 30 odd years. We are more than the summation of our paychecks.
It was then that I knew that something was amiss, and I needed to move. Fast.
Remember that doe-eye, enthusiastic fresh entrant you were when you first reported to work, all eager to recommend ideas? That individual was a product of your education, family upbringing, social interaction and personal development. You and I have unique strengths and offerings to bring to the table; we simply have to take time to mine those hidden gems and bring them to the next phase of our career.
4. Actually Do Something About the Bucket List
Most of us have a bucket list. A hiatus from work offers a good time to actually do something about it.
Pick up a new language, explore new hobbies, meet people, and travel!
For most people, money is the topmost concern during a period of unemployment; so if you cannot afford to travel to an exotic destination, make do with a short getaway. It’s what you do that matters, not where you go.
Want to try your hand at table service? Go for it – learn to do coffee art, make a cuppa and handle irate customers.
Doing and experiencing new things can widen your horizon, equip you with a fresh perspective, and you will become a much learned person in all aspects. A discerning employer will appreciate your confidence, common sense and insights instead of focusing on the void in your resume.
Do keep in mind though that one should not take frivolous breaks. If you are ready to tackle the challenges in your next job without going on a hiatus, go for it. Once you know why you want to take time off and have mentally committed to doing so, put your plan into action. Trust that things will work out and look forward to the next phase of your career in good faith.
This article is written by Mephine Ong for InternSG’s Career Write-up article series and has been re-published with permission. At the time of writing, Mephine is moving on from her position as a Corporate Communications Manager in a hospitality industry. Off work, Mephine spends her time on sports, reading and writing. For comments or collaboration opportunities, she can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org