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Is Taking A Year Off Career Suicide?

Is Taking A Year Off Career Suicide?

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Dear J.T. & Dale: I am an upper-level financial manager with a CPA and an MBA. Next year I will become eligible to draw a pension. Although it will not be an amount sufficient to live on indefinitely, it would allow me to take up to a year off for relaxation and travel. Will taking a year off be the equivalent of career suicide? – Allen

J.T.: Here’s the unwelcome truth: A recent study shows that people who’ve been out of work a month or longer are discriminated against, and that’s true whether they say they quit or were let go.

DALE: How do we make some sense of this unfair reality? It’s easy to understand why hiring managers might avoid someone who’s been fired, and you can almost understand – almost – concerns about someone who’s been laid off; after all, many companies use layoffs to dump mediocre employees.

But what about those employees who left voluntarily? Even in that situation, hiring managers may have doubts: Was it really voluntary? Is this someone who can’t get along? Does this person not really need or want to work? Thus, while the year off might not be career suicide, it’s a career coma, and you may have a difficult time coming out of it.

J.T.: That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take the time off, just that you’ll need a great story to tell when you are ready to go back. Here’s the formula: Experience = Learning = Growth. Do something that allows you to grow as a person and a professional.

Example: I know someone in a similar situation who took a year off to travel around the world by boat. When he came back, he was able to describe how the experience changed him in ways that made him better at his job. If you can do that, go for it! On the other hand, if you are planning to just “chill,” then be prepared to encounter resistance. Your story will define you: Are you coming back burned out or fired up?

© 2012 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

Feel free to send questions to J.T. and Dale at [email protected] or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th Street, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019.

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J.T. & Dale

“JT & Dale Talk Jobs” is the largest nationally syndicated career advice column in the country. J.T. O’Donnell and Dale Dauten are both professional development experts.