Dear Lifehacker, I’m 31 years old and have become a bit disenchanted with my career and life. I work as a software engineer and while I enjoy the work, I hate the ego driven nature of the industry and the general corporate BS that comes from working at a mid-sized company. For that reason I’ve been entertaining for a while the idea of quitting my job and re-evaluating my life and goals while travelling overseas for a while.
I’ve also considered asking for extended unpaid leave but the problem with that is it creates a deadline when I have to come back, and I don’t really intend to stay at the company long-term anyway.
I have enough savings to last a year or two and no relationship, assets or loans to tie me down. I would see myself doing volunteer work and generally living cheaply for as long as possible. I have travelled a bit in my life but never for more than a month, and I am definitely at my happiest when living out of a backpack!
What I am concerned about though is what will happen when the money runs out? There’s no guarantee that work will agree to grant me such a long period of unpaid leave, and the thought of coming back broke and having to find a job immediately while justifying why I quit my last job and haven’t worked since is daunting.
Is the potential growth and life experience I would gain from this sort of decision worth the inconvenience when I get back? Are recruiters and potential employers going to be turned off by my extended break from my career? Should I just suck it up and get on with my life/find another job now? Any advice and perspective is appreciated. Thanks, Hoping To Roam
Backpacking picture from Shutterstock
Our advice is simple: book that ticket now and quit your job. That’s a scary prospect, but a much more exciting reality than worrying about a role you’re clearly not enjoying any more.
As you say, you don’t really want to stick with your current employer long-term, so why go through the charade of asking for unpaid leave? You have the savings and the freedom. If you don’t grab this opportunity now, the chances are high you’ll regret it later. Your job isn’t guaranteed anyway; there’s always a chance, however slight, it will disappear six months from now anyway. Control your career; don’t let your career control you.
What happens when the money runs out (or gets close to running out)? You go back to work, either by returning to Australia or by looking overseas (assuming you can score an appropriate visa). Software engineering experience is valuable enough that I don’t think you’ll have too much trouble finding work, especially since you won’t be particularly committed to living in any particular place.
We’ve covered the question of how to explain gaps in your career before. In your case, I’d be up front, explain you took a career break, and that you’re now recharged and ready to re-engage. If you’re concerned that your skills will have atrophied or become irrelevant, set aside some of the money you’ve saved in a term deposit or online savings account and use it as a ‘retraining fund’ when you return.
That’s our perspective; we’d love to hear from readers who have taken this step in the comments. Good luck!
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