Today’s question comes from Lee. He asks:
“How can I keep skills fresh during breaks from full time work? And how do I sell those skills after a break?”
During a break from work you have to add to your skills, but this is easy because you’ll be learning and growing in ways that just aren’t possible to get from your current job.
That said, before you take a break you need to have a plan for what you’re going to do. Either work or play. Pick one.
If you decide to play that usually means traveling. And if you’ve never been exposed to the world before then you have to travel.
The biggest return on investment will come from picking a country the most unlike where you’re from.
If you’re from the US go to India. If India seems too overwhelming go to Japan because Japan is probably the most unlike the US but it’s developed.
Now you’re traveling through India or Japan or wherever for a few months.
Think about that. You’re learning how to adapt to a language barrier, negotiating prices at the market, coping with being outside your comfort zone.
Most important, you’re solving problems and challenges by coming up with plans and executing on them.
Sounds like a job, right?
That’s how you sell yourself after a break if you decide to play.
You should come back with stories about problems you faced where you can describe how you solved them and what result you achieved, and what you learned from it.
If you decide you’re going to work during your break that means personal projects.
When I retired early I was going to play but things changed because they always change and I decided to work.
My readers were asking me how to get started investing so I decided to create an online course.
The problem? I didn’t know how to create an online course so I bought an online course on how to create an online course…of course.
Now I’m learning how to do customer development by talking to people on the phone, validating the course is a good idea by asking them for money, learning how to design and build and host a course, recording and editing videos, getting feedback from my beta testers to fix things that are confusing or broken, learning how to write copy for a product and launch it, and on and on and on.
And throughout this whole process I’m trying things that fail, but learning and growing from those experiences, too.
When you’re working on personal projects you’re going to have constant problems to solve.
Plus, you’re expanding your skills which makes you more marketable than you are right now.
Most people who can afford to take breaks from work won’t because they’re too worried about staying employable. But there’s little risk if you have the ability to take initiative and solve problems because employers want to hire people that have that ability. Most people don’t.
And that’s what taking a break can demonstrate.