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Why Most People Fail at Taking Time Off...and What to Do Instead

By Moritz Dressel on May 28, 2017

Get a degree, secure a well-paying job, and start your career. That has worked for previous generations, but it no longer holds true—and you know that. Yes, there are those who have 30 or more years of tenure in big corporations, but they make up a dying breed. For the rest of us, the workplace is rapidly evolving.

“Handle the challenge of change well, and you can prosper greatly. Handle it poorly, and you put yourself and others at risk,” say management thought leaders Kotter and Rathgeber. And social philosopher Eric Hoffer adds that “in a time of drastic change, it is the learners who inherit the future.”

From management and organizational practices to the technology being used, change is the only constant. No matter where you look, enhancing your skills should be your top priority. Regardless of your current career stage, as a Growth Advance reader, the need to reinvent yourself is no news to you.

But how can you actually embark on a journey of reinvention? Perhaps by pulling the plug.

More and more people choose to take time off from work. What used to be out-of-the-ordinary has become increasingly popular, and rightly so.

During an extended sabbatical, you can recharge your batteries. This is a time when you can devote yourself to a cause that is not necessarily related to making a living.

You can try things out, test waters. You can see whether a newly-found interest really is for you or not.

Unfortunately, many people do not take full advantage of their sabbatical. Extensive travel is the norm. But unless collecting passport stamps is your favorite pastime, you should consider spicing things up.

You could use your sabbatical as a stepping stone for something bigger. Perhaps like a personal reset button. Hit it and start afresh.

Reinvent yourself.

What are the best ways to accomplish that?

There are plenty. But a good starting point is to follow your interest. If you have something you are passionate about, commit to exploring it more deeply. Or work on something you feel will give you the edge once you are ready to re-join the workforce. Fill gaps or add new facets. After all, this is a time when you can add something—anything, in fact—to your personal portfolio.

If you lack imagination about what you could engage in, why not start a little side business. Not something that immediately replaces your main source of income, but something that can provide a little extra cash each month. Because if you are putting all of your eggs in one basket—for example, when you are employed—you are exposing yourself to tremendous risks. With increasing trends of automation, few jobs remain completely safe. So why not play around with a number of niche business ideas? Can you put your expertise into short ebook guides to sell online? Do a test run each month. See if it works, or move on.

Alternatively, you could set out to acquire a new skill. Whether related to your profession or not, it will likely open new doors of opportunity for you. Have you always wanted to learn a certain language? Or dance? Or surf? Whatever it is that you have been longing to master (or at least to give a try), a sabbatical is a good moment to take action. While all others continue the rat race, you step aside and develop capabilities that make you fit for greater endeavors. And who knows, you might be able to combine your newly acquired competence with your professional background. (That’s basically how I ended up publishing the number 1 guide for career starters in the consulting industry.)

Or perhaps, you just want to take time off to, yeah, do exactly that: take time off. But do so with open eyes. Observe the world around you. See what works and what could do with some improvement. And if you feel some excitement in you, then by all means roll up your sleeves and do something about it. Whether it’s a social cause or a business opportunity, some serendipity can help you reinvent yourself, too.

You haven’t thought of taking a break from work yet? That’s okay. Just do a little thought experiment. What would you do with your time if you didn’t have to work? How would you use your time most effectively? What would get you up in the morning?

Even if you have never thought of doing a sabbatical, consider how you personally could benefit from some extended time off, and how this could kick-start your very own reinvention.


Moritz Dressel is the author of Got the Job… Now What?: How to Master the Corporate Game from Day 1 and The Aspiring Advisor: Strategies and Tools for a Successful Consulting Career, the number 1 guide for consulting career starters. He is also a management consultant specializing in post-merger integration, joint ventures and strategic alliances. He can be reached via Twitter @MoritzDressel or



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