Burned Out: taking a break

I'm a mid 30s VP and feeling burned out given the crazy last two years. I'm considering taking a year off, but am worried that I won't find a job again (especially one that pays as well as my current gig). Has anyone taken a break for 6 months to 1 year? If so, what was your experience like coming back to the workforce? Did you go back to what you used to do or did you evolve into something else?

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Comments (28)

Jan 6, 2022 - 12:18am
CHItizen, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I'm in your age range and did this, albeit earlier in my career (did the whole IB/PE path, then took 6 months off). Spent about 4 months just chilling, indulging in my hobbies, a fair amount but not too much (maybe not enough) traveling, then 2-3 months still off but job searching. I think a year might be pushing it, but I do know one tech exec who told me he consciously switches jobs every 3-5 years in order to take a full 12 month break each time so who knows. It definitely is one of those things where you get diminishing returns over time: first few months are amazing, next few still good but I started getting a little antsy and restless knowing I had to find a job at some point (also golfing and fishing aren't so fun later in the year).

If I could do it again, I would definitely plan better. You are free all the time which is great, but your friends are not. Also turns out I'm not a spontaneous traveler (and you usually don't do long trips in the interview months, so just try to plan ahead).

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Jan 6, 2022 - 1:30pm
mrcheese321, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I've not taken a long break between jobs (I sort of wish my company would offer a buyout so I could), but interesting that you talk about planning. I feel like that is the same thing with retirement. So many people (especially men) don't plan for their retirement and have a really hard time since their identidy is wrapped up in work.

  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Jan 6, 2022 - 2:06am

Could you try to get an offer for a job as an VP at another bank that starts in one year and then just take the time off until you start?

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Jan 6, 2022 - 2:42pm
MidMarketMcLovin, what's your opinion? Comment below:

How long is your notice period, and by extension your probable length of gardening leave? If I left for a competitor I'd likely be put on immediate gardening leave for 3 months. If you could line that up you can remove concerns around having to find a new job, and are pretty much guaranteed a period of downtime as you wont be interviewing for a new role. Obviously you'd need to have a plan for something you could do at short notice given you can't nail down a date for when you expect to be out of work by.

  • VP in RE - Comm
Jan 6, 2022 - 5:45pm

Actually love my job. The work is very interesting and I lead a niche team. However, my company made some organizational changes this year where they divided the team into sub groups (acqusitions, AM, and PM). We were told that it wouldn't change our pay, but comp numbers just came out and while the pay is good, AM was cut out from carry pool awards this year. That plus the way they are positioning us so that they can charge back our time to various funds (we have to do time sheets like the legal team), makes it feel like AM is now considered an expense and no longer part of the investments team. The senior people say otherwise, but companies all vote with their $ and they vote was that acqusitions was so much more important than AM that they got carry awards and we didn't. Not a great atmosphere.

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Jan 6, 2022 - 4:23pm
redever, what's your opinion? Comment below:

This is an interesting post/question. To be honest, I've haven't had more than a week's break between jobs for like 13 years now. But have taken as much as three weeks totally off for vacation before (and longer after my wife had our kids, but that doesn't count as time off lol). So, this idea is interesting, but difficult to implement for sure!

As to the CAN you do this question?? OF COURSE... this happens to people all the time involuntarily from layoffs/firm going BK/etc. So, if you frame it as a "what would I do if I found out tomorrow I didn't have a job" type question, this would suddenly seem easy. People also take time off for family reasons, go back to school, etc. It's not that uncommon, and I'm sure you will find another job (whether it pays as well as current depends on your market value, so that is just a hyper personal item, and maybe a real risk factor...). 

Could (or will) it "cost" you some time/advancement in your career? Yes, I would expect that, but that is part of the trade. You get to enjoy a year of whatever while the diehards keep advancing each day. Being blunt, every woman who takes extended time off when they have a kid (and I guess every guy as well), faces this reality. They may return with same job, but it almost always comes at a cost when it comes to timeline to promotion, etc. There are no free lunches, but if you want to do this, it can totally be done. 

  • VP in RE - Comm
Jan 6, 2022 - 5:50pm

I guess one of the things would be to figure out how to frame it positively. People understand taking time off for school, an illness, or having a kid. Taking a year off to fuck around seems harder to explain.

My issue is that because I lead a team, even taking PTO for a week is hard. Example: I'm on PTO this week and still have racked up 20 hours and it is only Thursday. So taking PTO isn't really a thing in my current work environment.

Jan 6, 2022 - 6:23pm
redever, what's your opinion? Comment below:

So, more I read this thread.... sounds like the job has just started to suck. Leaving to travel, personal stuff, whatever, doesn't really require much explanation. I mean, you really just need an explanation for the separation, and wanting to take time off to look for other job is valid. Personally, I think you are over thinking how easy this could actually be. 

Unless you make some big fuss about it, I doubt anyone would spend more than 30 seconds on this during any interview.

Jan 6, 2022 - 8:18pm
jarstar1, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Similar to what redever said, you don't need to give a deep explanation. Honestly something as simple as "I was getting burnt out and need some time off" is definitely fine. I think if you end up interviewing with a group that can't respect the idea of unwinding or taking a break, they're not the kind of group you'd be interested in. That's how I'd approach it, anyway. 

Jan 6, 2022 - 9:26pm
CuriousCharacter, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I guess one of the things would be to figure out how to frame it positively. People understand taking time off for school, an illness, or having a kid. Taking a year off to fuck around seems harder to explain.

Mid 30's tech guy here, we call it "telling a good story."

When covid hit, my company was bought by a PE firm and I was offered a package.

I took it and moved to Israel for a year (which was a fabulous experience).

When my time in IL was up, I had to hustle a bit to find a new job, but it was no big deal. I did take a temporary pay cut, however I'm now back to where I was before the sabbatical. 

Everyone I've interviewed with was super impressed that I had the balls to move halfway across the world in the middle of a pandemic, and I have awesome stories to share from my time abroad.

What are you planning to do with your time off? Do you have people who will vouch for you when you're ready to rejoin the workforce? You could get fucked by the economy and frozen out of your industry, but you could also get hit by a bus...

  • 4
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Jan 6, 2022 - 5:12pm
thebrofessor, what's your opinion? Comment below:

find out your company's bereavement policy, stack all of your vacation, sick, and personal time on top of that and then ask for the rest in bereavement. when they ask who died, just say you've already died inside, and they won't ask anymore questions

in all seriousness, there was just an article in WSJ about this, if you have good deal experience, I'd do it. people have taken time off for illness, parenting, all kinds of shit, if you're worried about being let back into the rat race, why? isn't that why you're burned out? if you're a valuable employee (and I'd expect you are, most people who burn out are hustlers), I'd imagine you'll be fine. it won't be neutral, but I find it hard to believe it's career suicide

https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-sabbatical-a-power-move-for-the-burnout-era-11641358862

  • VP in RE - Comm
Jan 6, 2022 - 6:01pm

I've always been a highly rated employee during yearly reviews and I'm not that worried about excelling in another spot. I'm more worried about convincing someone to give me a chance again, but I guess that is probably where networking comes in a lot more than just dropping resumes online.

Jan 6, 2022 - 9:32pm
aspiringcoolperson, what's your opinion? Comment below:

If you already made it to VP, you've obviously been capable enough to make it this far. There's no more asking someone to "give you a chance again" as though you've failed/made a mistake by deciding to take a break. The burnout is a more immediate situation that you need to take care of -- worry about getting back into the workforce later, once you've had enough time to recharge and can think clearly. 

Jan 6, 2022 - 11:23pm
ke18sb, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I know quite a few people that have done this in your age range and all landed on their feet. Might take longer than you want...possible to have to downshift in brand...but ultimately the people I know turned out totally fine - 1 or 2 even upgraded. Its scary and does have some risk (though probably more in ones head) but likely worth it if that's what you want to do. 

Jan 7, 2022 - 11:35am
Action Jackson III, what's your opinion? Comment below:

A friend of mine was an MD for a smaller IBD and took a year off to work for FedEx/UPS (logistics and other areas). The work didn't pay nearly as much but it was an enriching experience for him and he was able to re-enter the IBD world with a specialization in industrial revenue bonds. It seems to have worked out for him.

Jan 7, 2022 - 11:54am
9percent, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Similar age, and I am strongly contemplating taking a six-month to year long sabbatical before I switch jobs again. Life's too short my man, and work will always be there. Honestly I cannot imagine that a year gap in an otherwise long and successful career will cause any issue whatsoever, especially if you have a good story for it. 

In your elder years, you probably won't remember the work you were doing at 35, but you will remember that glorious mini-retirement that you got to enjoy, especially if you go make some good memories.  

That said, I understand the difficulty in taking your foot off the gas when you've got the career momentum.  

  • VP in RE - Comm
Jan 7, 2022 - 1:27pm

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Jan 8, 2022 - 5:47am
Pizz, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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