Remember your last great vacation?
The sun on your shoulders.
The beautiful surroundings.
The feeling of relaxation.
The total sense of dread when you think about going back to work.
No wait—that last one happens after you get back and realize that not much in your work life has changed.
A lot of us use our vacations as an escape from the daily grind. But, what if your next vacation could actually be an escape plan for your career?
Here’s the thing: Most of us use vacations to unplug and not think about work, and that can have its benefits. But if you’re itching for a career or job change, why not use some of that time to help you identify your next great move as well?
Vacations are interesting, because they have a couple of awesome career-boosting benefits. They get you out of your normal routine and help your brain shake up how it thinks. They help you get exposed to new ideas and experiences. They give you a chance to get away from the daily grind and focus on what really matters to you. And they give you a chance to relax, which not only helps with all of the above—it’s the perfect state to be in to get clarity on your next step.
So, how do you make your vacation work for you?
Step 1: Set an Intention for Your Trip
And by “intention,” I don’t mean that you have to come up with something grand and life-changing, I just mean that you should think about how you want to use the time to help your career. This could be anything from “relax and learn” to “write every day” to “read a book I’ve been wanting to read” to “get out of my comfort zone at least four times.” Make it productive, but make it enjoyable—something you’ve actually been wanting to do but haven’t had time for in your day to day.
Step 2: Make Time to Think
As you follow your intention, set aside some time every day to think about what you’ve learned or observed about yourself. Ideally, you might also write these observations down, but it’s most important just to see what you notice.
Maybe you learn that you love (or truly hate) having structure in your day. Maybe you learn that pushing yourself outside your comfort zone wasn’t as hard as you thought, or maybe you realize that you have a real knack for scuba diving and want to understand more about the business side of it because—who knows?—maybe this is a new career. Again, it doesn’t have to be groundbreaking—you can learn a lot about yourself by just paying attention to how you feel as you go about various activities.
Step 3: Be Honest With Yourself
After a few days in, after you’ve relaxed, enjoyed, and taken some time to think, it’s time to do some (light—this is vacation, after all) analysis. If you know you’re unhappy with your current job but can’t seem to make a change, take some time to write down all of the reasons why. Maybe it’s something to do with a mortgage payment, or a deep-seated fear of change. Maybe it’s a worry about learning something new or that you don’t have the right skills for the field you are thinking about. Maybe you’ve just been stuck in your daily grind and haven’t really had time to get started.
Take a moment and put step 2 together with step 3 and see how things change when you compare what you know about yourself (and what you love) and what you are afraid of doing. You’d be surprised at how some of those fears might lessen.
Step 4: Bring a Bit of the Vacation Home With You
I’m not asking you to go on vacation, have an epiphany, and suddenly come home and quit your job and sail into the sunset (though, I’ll applaud you if you do that. Go you!). But, you should take what you learned on the vacation and recreate a bit of it at home so you can start to make a career transition.
For example, I went to Italy for a few weeks while I was still consulting and realized that the Italian lifestyle was what I wanted. I really wanted to work hours that made sense to me, I wanted to take long breaks in the middle of the day, I wanted to feel comfortable and relaxed and live in a place with a lot of sunshine—and I wanted to help people with their work. When I got home, I didn’t quit my job, but I did started researching careers that would give me that same feeling I had in Italy and began, one-by-one, to explore them. (I also started enjoying a quiet glass of Prosecco on my deck at night, because—well, fun!)
And that trip was the beginning of my journey to where I am today, which is the owner of a successful career coaching business.
Getting away can do a lot for your perspective and remind you of what is really important. It can finally give you a chance to think and reflect on what you love (or think you love). It can also just offer the pause and reset that you need to start making a change. (And, hey, at the very least, it’ll get you out of the office for a week or so.)
So, if you haven’t taken a vacation yet this summer, here’s your permission. Take it from me: It’s amazing what it can do for your career.
If the daily grind is kicking your butt, and you spend your days imagining yourself in a new career (but you can’t quite figure out how to get out of the old one), then treat your career to a vacation with Career on Fire, a career retreat in Sonoma, CA dedicated to helping you find a career that you love. You could stay stuck, or you could get away and do something about it. The second option comes with wine! Learn more at careeronfire.com.
Photo of island courtesy of Shutterstock.