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For most of my colleagues, even a break for a few weeks between jobs is uncommon. Many people go from one position to the next without so much as a couple of weeks between them. I believe more people would take a break between jobs but aren’t able to. Sometimes this is out of necessity: lots of bills or sole earner and health coverage provider for a family. So if you can afford it, I highly recommend using a break between positions to better yourself and deeply reflect on your career aspirations and goals.

Professional Development

During my break between jobs, I completed my AWS Solutions Architect Professional certification. Preparing for the certification was challenging and rewarding. My AWS knowledge increased dramatically in addition to my overall architecture and system design knowledge. The extra time between jobs afforded me the ability to study while rested and without the stress of my daily routine. In my experience, learning while rested results in far greater comprehension and retention of the new knowledge and skills.

In addition to courses and certifications, extra time for reading allowed me to catch up to a growing backlog of books. While working, Audible books while commuting and reading Kindle books over lunch were my only opportunities to learn by reading. I was cramming activities into small timeslots that required a lot of context switching. I did not absorb that information nearly as well as I do now.

Personal Development

In addition to career development, I’ve focused on myself a lot during this time. My top priority was physical fitness and healthy eating. Time and stress have always battled my physical fitness and health goals. I know from my experiences that I need a good night’s sleep to reduce my stress and cortisol levels. A good night’s sleep is waking up completely rested. Before this career break, I’d sleep approximately 6 hours per night and many times less. I’d need an alarm to wake me up in the morning. Now I wake up when I’m done sleeping after about 8 hours.

Career reflection

Careers don’t have to be a linear progression. At work, you have a particular title, and you’re working on attaining the next level title. It’s called climbing the corporate ladder, and people at the top define the rungs on that ladder. You’re so engaged in trying to achieve the next thing that you don’t have time to think about what you want in the long-term. A clear long-term vision is critical to keep you on course as life and career put up obstacles in the short-term. With the long-term vision in mind, obstacles can easily be surmounted.

Mission, vision, and goals aren’t just for corporations. Writing down these things for your own life will help you live with purpose, focus, and direction. Without a long-term vision, you’re just living your routine and working on tasks that consume your time. A vision allows you to say “no” to things that won’t help you achieve your ultimate goals. Even skills development and learning are useless without a purpose of application of that skill and knowledge. I’m going to write a blog post on personal mission, vision, and goals soon.

Yeah, but why do you need a break to do this?

Because you probably have a full daily routine. I don’t have blocks of free time that I can reclaim from recreational activities like watching TV or surfing the internet. Taking a break from work disrupts your routine giving you chunks of free time. Everything about my day is different now. I focus so much time on learning and growing myself. At work, I had responsibilities to the company and to my employees that consumed virtually all of my day. I had very little time for myself. If I wanted to squeeze out some more time to complete a course or finish a certification, I’d have to sacrifice sleep or exercise time which was a wrong long-term decision.

So if you can afford it, I recommend taking time to focus yourself on what matters most to you. Then work like hell to achieve that. Don’t lose track of your goal when life’s obstacles try to stop you. The time to reflect is crucial to building your life’s vision and starting to map out your path to your goals.