Top tips on planning your perfect career break 

expert tips to plan the perfect mid career break

This interview is part of ClaimScore Experts Wisdom Series

Today, the ClaimScore team are lucky enough to pick the brains of a real expert on the topic of career break. Meet Rachel Morgan-Trimmer, founder and managing director of The Career Break Site is the original and biggest independent career break website in the UK, with everything you need to find, plan and go on your trip of a lifetime.

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How did you come up with the idea of

I was working for a gap year company and I found that when I did gap year events for teenagers, it was the parents who were more interested in what I was talking about than the kids! So many adults said to me “I wish I could take a gap year.” At the time, there was no information at all about gap years for adults. Although there's an obvious overlap (especially when it comes to the sorts of things you can do on a gap year), career breakers have different concerns when it comes to taking time out – not just the obvious things like their job and money, but also their house, car – even their dog.

I took a career break myself – not to have first-hand experience but just because I wanted to! Having said that, I scribbled plenty of ideas down while I travelled, and met a lot of people I'd later use as case studies. I set up the website within a week of returning to the UK.

Keep details of people you meet with great stories, to turn into business cases or a blog when you set up after a gap year

How long has the website been running?

13 years!

How many members do you have to help in your team?

We have 3 permanent members of staff (not all full time) and a raft of talented freelancers who work with us when we need them to write and share more tips and advice on taking a break mid career.

What’s the definition of a career break? (compare to having a holiday for example)

A career break is not time off, it is time out. It's certainly not a holiday – you may well find you are busier and working harder than you did at home! There's plenty of opportunities to laze around on the beach (and it's imperative you do rest between working, or teaching, or volunteering or whatever) but for the most part, your career break must be constructive.

What are the latest trends around career breaks?

We've noticed 3 key ones:

  1. A rise in digital nomads -  Digital nomads are people who travel with a laptop and work wherever they are. Lots of people want to make money running a travel blog or doing travel photography but you need to be really good to make it financially viable as it's a crowded marketplace. So although it's really grown in popularity, most career breakers still take the traditional route of working holiday visas, seasonal work or TEFL if they want to work while travelling.
  2. A different way to volunteer - As career breaks become more popular, people look for  volunteering projects that are a bit different – such as working on a jewellery project with Incas, or helping in archaeology or human rights law – things that wouldn't normally occur to you to do as a volunteer.
  3. A totally new experience - We've seen a rise in different sort of courses – while most people take water sports or snow sports courses on a career break, we're also finding people want to do game ranger courses, or safari guide courses. You can even do a course in taking a career break!

What are the latest trends in terms of destination, type of break or duration for a career break?

  • New hot spot - Australia and New Zealand have always been the most popular destinations but we're starting to see a wider range of places being taken in on a round-the-world journey – Japan in particular is tipped to be the next hot spot.
  • Multi goals - We see a lot of people take what we call a “combo” career break. Not satisfied with just working, or volunteering, or taking a course, they do a bit of everything while they travel the world! A career break is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for most people so it makes sense to cram as much in as you can.
  • Longer breaks - Although 4-6 months is a very common period for a career break, as they get to be more accepted and employers are more willing to give sabbaticals, longer career breaks are now possible for more people. Some volunteer for 2 years, or work as a TEFL teacher for a year or two.

Why do you think people have a career break?

The number one reason for taking a career break is simply to do something different. Even if people love their job, they just want to take time out to do something else for a little while. They want to travel the world and have new experiences. It can have surprisingly great benefits for your career too. The ones who choose volunteering say they want to “give something back”.

why take a career break

Is there a particular age for a career break?

Most career breakers are late 20s or early 30s, but there's a slow increase in the average age of a career breaker as more older people take them. There's no upper age limit to most of the career breaks we feature (except working holiday visas) and if you want to volunteer, or become a ski instructor or whatever, the company helping you organise it is far more interested in your fitness level (and your attitude) than your age! Lots of people take a gap year when they retire now too – we call them Golden Gappers.

Are men or women more prone to take in a career break?

About 10 years ago, career breakers were 60% female and 40% male. The gap has closed slightly, it's now about 55% to 45%.

What advice would you give to people heading into a career break in terms of making the most of it?

First of all, do what you really want to do. You might feel selfish (or others might make you feel selfish) if you don't do any volunteer work, but frankly, you're not much help if your heart's not in it! Doing something you are passionate about, going somewhere you've longed to visit since you were a kid, or trying something that you've always been too scared to do before – all these are really important for a great career break. You might only get one chance to do this, so doing what your heart desires is really important.

Also, it sounds very unsexy, but plan as much as you can. Probably the most important part of planning is money: how you're going to save up; budgeting for your trip; finding the cheapest deals; getting the right insurance cover for your home and also whilst you're travelling to keep your bags safe etc. Then there's your job – you will need to prepare for your return before you go away, whether that's getting your sabbatical agreement in writing or updating your CV, storing it securely and not forgetting your password! You will also need to think about booking the different elements of your trip, getting vaccinations – even how many pairs of pants to pack!

There's a lot to plan – but almost all of it is done before you go away – and that is key. The more time and effort you put into planning your career break, the better time you'll have when you're travelling the world.

How can career breakers stay safe while they travel? 

Lots of places around the world are very safe – some might even be safer than your home city! But scammers and thieves are common everywhere, and unfortunately, foreigners are obvious targets.

Keep your ears to the ground – and social media – for the latest scams and tricks. People who are travelling at the same time as you will be able to tell you about which scams operate in which areas, and what techniques thieves and pickpockets use. As they say, forewarned is forearmed! My favourite security device is a plain old bike lock – you can chain up your backpack in a storeroom or luggage rack when you're not with it. Peace of mind is as important (or even more important) than not losing your stuff.

Finally, what’s your favourite wisdom quote? 

"It is better to look ahead and prepare, than to look back and regret"

Jackie Joyner-Kersee, American athlete.

I love this quote because in all my years working in the gap year and career break industry, I have never had a person tell me they regretted their experience – but I know plenty of people will regret not doing it!

NEXT: How to increase your income working from home


tips to plan your perfect career break

Are you thinking of having a career break too? What do you want to do with your time? where do you want to go?  Add your comments below.


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