Although you might not imagine it at the beginning, many of the people we have spoken to are very pleased to be back by the end of their career break. Money might well be running low, and friends and family will be beckoning. As, of course, will work.
But its important to realise that coming back home may well be as much a culture shock as going away was. We take a look at how you can ease yourself back into your old life - or as much of it as you want to!
Going Back to Your Old Job
Remember going back to school after having a significant amount of time off through illness or holiday or any other reason? When everything felt different and even little things, like who was sitting where and with whom, had changed massively? Returning after a career break might well feel somewhat similar for you. There might well be changes in staff, duties (not just your own but also other people's), where youll be sitting, even the software programmes your company is using. Just reassure yourself that with the massive changes youve no doubt been encountering almost every day as youve been travelling, this is easy and you will cope. Soon it will be the new normal.
When nothing has changed, except you!
When Rose Parnell returned from her career break she mentioned that by the end of two weeks back at work she felt like nothing had changed; as if she hadnt been away. For many that might be just what they want. But what if you find yourself frustrated and questioning if your old job is still the one for you.
"Before making any big decisions, give yourself some time to re-adjust, settle back in and overcome the initial natural reluctance to return to work."
Amanda Alexander of Coaching Mums (www.coachingmums.com) coaches a lot of women returners who often experience the same feelings. She counsels If youve been on a career break, the chances are, you have probably spent quite a bit of time reflecting on your job already. If, during that time, you have come to the conclusion that your old job is no longer a good fit for you, then there is really no point in waiting around! However, if you hadnt been contemplating this, then Id say that, before you make any big decisions, its best to give yourself some time to re-adjust, settle back in and overcome the initial natural reluctance to return to work. Its at times like this that people tend to hire Life Coaches!
How Long is too Long?
Just as it probably took you time to ease into life abroad, it will take time at home. Now is perhaps not the time to rush any major life changing decisions. Amanda suggests leaving it three months to see how you feel then: Set a review date in your diary after 3 months, block out some quality thinking time and assess the job against your values, your priorities and your needs.
One of Amandas top tips is to write yourself an email on how you feel, what your concerns, hopes and fears are about returning to work and where you hope to be at work in 3 months time. Then use Future Me (www.futureme.org) to send yourself the email and set it to be sent to you in 3 months.
When you receive that email, read it to see how you feel now compared to how you felt then. Are things better than you thought or worse? Have your fears about work been realised or have your expectations been met? This will help you with your decision making.
Dealing With Plain Old Culture Shock
So, my advice would be to seek out fellow wanderlusters, allow yourself to enjoy your memories of the countries you have visited! It really helps!
If youve been used to partying with your fellow workers after a day on the slopes, or have been spending long lazy days exploring beautiful scenery at your own pace, returning to life in the workplace may well be a culture shock for you. The main thing is dont expect other people, who havent gone travelling or taking a career break, to understand. To them its more than likely that they are presuming youve just been on an extended holiday.
Amanda agrees, I worked in Zimbabwe for just under 2 years and when I came back, I had experience of having lived in a very different culture. I found that people back home couldnt relate to my experience and nor were they particularly interested. They had their own concerns and lives to lead! The key thing that helped me was making African friends friends who had moved to the UK from Sub Saharan Africa and with whom I could connect on a level that meant I could keep the African connection going. I was homesick for Africa!
Keeping Your Break Alive
You might be happy in your job, and pleased to be back, and yet start to find that all the excitement and adventure you enjoyed during your time away is starting to be devoured by trips to Tesco and doing the gardening. Okay, so heres the bad news, you do have to be proactive in keeping that sense of adventure alive. Olly Beckett talks about how he and his wife have invested in kayaks to make sure they get out and have fun on the weekends. And Gilxs Wendes makes sure he gets to meetings with Couchsurfers (www.couchsurfers.org) to keep networking with like minded travellers.
Amanda suggests thinking about why you had your break in the first place. Just keep connected to your values. What was it about your career break that was so important to you that you went ahead and made that break? What were the values being lived on your career break? How can you live those values now? It might be that you choose your job/employer carefully to reflect those values. Or it might be that you actively prioritise hobbies/activities that you love. Life is for living, not just plodding along before, during and AFTER a career break.
Returning to a Job Search
If you havent got a job to come back to, all this talk of settling into your old job might seem like a problem you only wish you had. It is hard out there at the moment and in our surveys a surprising number of people (29% ) talked about how hard it has been to find work.
Amanda suggests that you surround yourself with positive people and positive messages. Dont watch or read the news. Make a real commitment to only seek out positive news and get your radar on for success stories. Remember that you can have anything you want, if only you would ask enough people. Treat your job search like this just keep asking, proactively, positively and with the determination you know you have! Youll get there!
There are many routes to a job - recruitment agencies, classified ads, writing letters on spec, using networks like LinkedIn. Often called the Job Hunters Bible, What Colour is Your Parachute by Richard N. Bolles, is a fantastic and very strategic way to look at what you want and how to get it. Youll come away with an idea of what will work for your chosen industry or profession and the best ways of raising the odds of success.
Money, Money, Money
Hopefully (if youve been following our advice) you will have a nest egg to tide you over. If you havent got a job we suggest you use your new found budgeting experience and live as though you were still on your career break until you find yourself on a better financial footing.
Look at alternatives. So what if you have to go back and live with your parents for a while, or use a friend's spare room? The trip was worth it, wasnt it, and this time will end.
If Things Get Bad
James Parnell tells us it took six months to find a job. Lucky for him, his wife Rose had a job that paid the bills, but what if its just you? Or not having a job is really making you feel down.
Amanda suggests avoiding sitting at home. Get yourself out of your house even if you feel as if you want to crawl under the duvet. If you are having repeated episodes of feeling really low, then go and see your GP. Depression happens to the best of us and its treatable. I may sound like my mother here, but I do believe that plenty of fresh air, natural sunlight and good friends can help cure a multitude of ills! And if there is no natural sunlight, I highly recommend you get hold of a few full spectrum light bulbs for your home. They make a HUGE difference and they are not expensive.
Changing Your Life
If you do decide that you want to change your life direction as a result of your break, Amanda has noticed that her successful clients use the following formula:
- Set your intention - what do you want to do?
- Do your research - what do you need to know?
- Get support structures in place - who can help you whilst you are doing this?
- Look out for opportunities everywhere- be open to everything
- Speak to people about what you want - if they dont know, they cant help you!
- Take small daily actions - they all add up and they will move you closer to where you want to be
- Never give up - youll get there!
Dealing With Itchy Feet
If you cant wait to get going again then perhaps thats the lifestyle for you. Check out our article on Digital Nomads who work their way around the world whilst holding down a job or running a business. You can do it too it if you really want to!