I’m thinking about taking a career break from project management to write a novel but I want to come back and carry on with my project management career, any advice to consider making sure I’m not harming my career?
This was a question I was asked a few months back from a project practitioner.
Personally I think it’s a good move to take time out of your career – people do it all the time – what do they say? “A change is as good as a rest”. Of course the break will be good for you personally, a new challenge, a new way of thinking, and probably a personal test to work alone and defeat writers block!
If you are intending to come back to your project management career later there are still some ties to the industry you should consider keeping.
Still attend some of your professional networking meetings. You may be away from the day-to-day job but keeping up to date with what’s happening in project management and of course your network, will be really useful when you do finally want to return.
Make sure that your CV includes this break – tell people what you were doing and what new skills it has given to you. Also mention that you’ve kept up with your development and network too.
Consider meeting up with your closer network too throughout the time you’re away. It will be these people who will probably be helping you back into the world of project management when you’re ready.
Finally, start looking for a new position sooner than you think. Work on the premise that it could take up to two months to find the right opening once you’re finished with the book.
So do Project Managers take career breaks?
In this year’s Project Management Benchmark Report we wanted to find out more about an individual practitioner’s career – and specifically asked if they have taken a career break like this book writing PM.
We found that only about a quarter of practitioners have taken a career break from project management, and these were the breaks that those people had undertaken:
These practitioners were also asked how the career break impacted their career – either negatively or positively.
Overwhelming 72% of female respondents (compared to 38% of males) saw this career break as impacting negatively – the majority of those female respondents were citing “raising a family” as their main career break reason (71% of females versus 18% of males)
The negative impacts most cited were, “career break seen as suspicious by agencies and employers” and “career break just seen as a gap on the CV”.
To me this is just outdated, old-fashioned thinking from employers – people have families, just deal with it.
If you’re thinking it’s all doom and gloom if you consider having a career break from project management – remember there is always an upside somewhere and we asked respondents what their positive impacts were after taking a break.
The biggest impacts were actually that is good for you as an individual to take that time out – and has a result, it’s also good for organisations to have people return after a break – “refreshed, re-energised, ready for a new challenge” were some of the responses. Of course, some people never return to their original place of work, so it’s another organisation which benefits from that renewed vigour.
Perhaps that is a wake up call for organisations – to consider more sabbaticals for their employees – or long-term time off to pursue other interests, to think about how this can improve long-term performance levels in their delivery organisations. How different we would feel if we knew that having time away to pursue other things in our lives wouldn’t have a negative impact on our careers – whether we chose to take that opportunity or not.
Something tells me that the new generation of workers – the millennials – might be the ones to finally create a step change to employer attitudes around career breaks – especially as they are the most “collaborative and inclusive generation to date” and want to “work with you, not for you”. There will be no room for outdated and old-fashioned employer thinking.