It’s officially one year since I left my job! On this day in 2014, I was still recovering from my Freedom Party (it’s around 4pm on Sunday afternoon right now, so I was probably just tucking into my breakfast before heading out to eat some doughnuts on Brighton beach) and looking forward to starting work with Brighton Festival the next day.
So, here is my Official One Year On Career Break Digest, finally. I’ve been meaning to do this for a while, but kind of missed my cue in January when my career break was officially over. So I thought I would save it to mark the one-year anniversary of me sticking two fingers up to my corporate life, emptying my bank account and wondering what would happen next.
As promised last week, I have drawn a slightly crappy infographic to illustrate the key facts. Graphic design is clearly not my strong point… For all but the ‘blog posts’ figure (which is all my posts to date, January 2014 to present), I have stuck with the period from 11 April 2014, my first day of freedom, to 8 January 2015, the first day of my freelance contract at the Albany theatre. Other figures I could have included:
- Hairstyles: 5
- Self-help books appeared in: 1
- World-renowned arts institutions worked with: 2
I hesitated over whether to be frank about the financial side of things, but figured that I may as well be up-front about it. Money is one of those subjects people skirt around, but I actually don’t mind telling you how much my break cost me. Yes, it was a lot of money – my entire savings account, in fact. Was it worth it? Absolutely. Could I have done it more cheaply? Probably. The reason why I budgeted £9k over six months was partly that my living costs in Brighton are relatively high, and partly that I wanted a little bit of headroom so I could have the odd night out, weekend away, etc. I hadn’t budgeted to earn anything during my break, so the extra income I got (from freelance work, mainly) helped me to extend my break and to fund a few lovely holidays (a couple of trips home to the Netherlands; Soundwave in Croatia; Berlin and Paris – the sixth trip was to France for a project I was working on). As I said from the onset, my break wasn’t about travelling – so being able to fit in these trips felt like a real luxury, and money well spent.
Basically, if you are thinking of doing something similar and wonder about the financial impact, the best thing to do is to write down all your essential monthly outgoings, consider what you can cut back on and what you need to not be miserable and worried all the time, and base your budget on that. What you need will vary significantly based on factors such as where you live and how wedded you are to that designer shoe habit/weekly cocktail night/Sky TV package.
Now for the Ten Things I Learnt From Taking A Career Break:
- I am less risk-averse than I thought.
- If you knock on someone’s door, nine times out of ten they will be open to what you have to say and willing to help you.
- I am better at networking than I thought.
- Volunteering, when done right, is a wonderful thing for everyone concerned.
- Freelancing is less scary than I thought.
- ‘If man say him a ting, him a ting’: if you present yourself confidently, there is no reason why people are going to doubt your credentials.
- Working in a creatively inspiring environment makes me very happy.
- Being able to wear a comfy jumper and jeans to work also makes me happy.
- If there is something in your life that consistently takes more energy from you than it gives back, whatever it is: get the fuck rid of it. You’re a long time dead.
- Reading a nice comment or tweet from a stranger halfway around the world can make my day.
Are you thinking of taking a career break, or have you already done so? How do your experiences differ from mine? As you can see from number 10 above: I love to hear from you. You can also tweet in my face or stalk me on Facebook, if that’s your kind of thing.