Sometimes, you need more than just a weekend off work to recover from the accumulated stress of pursuing your career. Vacations are healthy, and many would argue necessary, to continue working at peak performance.

At some point, you may choose to take an extended "career vacation," and cut the ties to your job on a prolonged basis. Perhaps you might do this to put a gap between your previous career and a new one you're pursuing, or simply regard it as a hiatus from work altogether.

Either way, if you pursue it intelligently, there's a lot you can get out of it.

Benefits of a Career Vacation

Why take a career vacation in the first place?

  • Personal development. Giving yourself a break from work opens the way for more personal pursuits, which could include taking classes, pursuing hobbies, or engaging more with your community.

  • Complete de-stress. Even days off can be stressful. But when you completely break away from work, you can de-stress and start over from scratch.

  • New perspectives. Taking a break from everything can help you discover new perspectives, which can be extremely valuable for making decisions about the next phase of your life.

  • Resetting your expectations. Breaking away from all the professional preoccupations that came before may provide you with a "soft reset," which will help you select better expectations, goals, and perspectives for a new career once you start back up again.

How to Get the Most Out of It

If you want to make the most of your career vacation, here's what you need to do:

  1. Pursue stimulating activities. Get involved with activities that stimulate your senses. For example, you might explore a different side of nature by snorkeling or learn more about history by volunteering at a museum. Keeping your mind active will help you de-stress, enable you to learn new things, and give you altered perspectives that may help you define your new career direction.

  2. Do things you've always wanted to try. Most people have a list of activities or tasks they've always wanted to try, but haven't been able to get to them because of work duties. When you break away from your career, you have a golden chance to try some of those things. For example, have you always wanted to skydive? Now's your chance. Have you thought about trying your hand at bartending? Here's the perfect opportunity.

  3. Detach from work completely. It's essential that, for this break to work, you take an actual vacation. You can make yourself available for utter emergencies, but otherwise, you should try to detach from work as much as humanly possible. Don't answer phone calls, don't check your email, and don't fall back on old projects. This is your chance to get away from everything, so don't squander the opportunity.

  4. Get creative. Creativity is an extremely important quality, in both your personal and professional life, but if you're working all the time, you might not get many chances to develop yours. Write about your experiences, or pick up a musical instrument, or learn how to paint. Whatever you do, engage your creative side and tackle something new. Not only will you become more of a creative thinker, which will inevitably train you to become a better problem solver and analyst, but you'll de-stress, and you'll probably start looking at your life in new ways.

  5. Talk to strangers. Wherever you go and whatever you do, try to talk to more strangers. This may seem like an odd tip, but it can be invaluable for discovering new opportunities and acquiring new perspectives. For example, you may find out about a class that wasn't advertised, or get an idea for a new business based on something someone mentions as a need. The more you talk to strangers, the bigger your network will grow, and the more opportunities you'll have for career and personal development.

  6. Avoid packing your schedule. There are tons of ideas on this list, and you probably have plenty of your own notions to add. But it's vital not to over-pack your schedule. If you make that mistake, it will essentially turn your vacation into yet another career. It's much better to allow some flexible time for decompressing or schedule days during which you have nothing in particular on the agenda, which gives you the opportunity to discover things without pre-planning. This can open the way to encounter people and activities you might never have considered, as well as minimize pressure or stress.

Vacations are a little different for everybody. Some may de-stress by going on a long trip, while others prefer to stay at home. Whatever the case, your vacation can improve your mental, physical, and emotional health, and set you up properly for the next phase of your career--wherever that may take you.

So think about taking a career vacation for your own good, and preparing for a new direction in a stimulating, growth-inducing manner.