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      27.01.2009 23:46
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      Don't be a pussycat - a career break is your one big opportunity to change your life forever!!

      I was made redundant in 2002.

      I made the bold decision to sell my house - and decided to go and find a place in Spain to live! I ended up visiting Spain lots of times to assess different areas and eventually bought an almond farm with 45,000m2 of land with a house (well...a stable really...but I thought I'd "big" it up!) - and another house by the sea which needed a complete overhaul. I bought in Southern Spain (Granada province) on the basis that I could spend the morning skiing and then the afternoon on the beach - perfect!

      I then fell pregnant with my daughter and quickly rushed back to Spain to sort out the renovation of one of the Spanish properties - because I knew I wouldn't be able to do it once she was born. But...a quarter of the way through the renovation the house fell down...well, the house was number 13 afterall!.

      Shortly after, I began to meet with architects/builders and came up with a design for the new house i.e. a house with a pool on the roof. Strangely there would be 3 near fatal accidents when building the house. I decided I would call the house "La casa de la suerte". The house of luck. This was because none of the accidents were fatal...just very near misses!

      During this time I furiously learnt the Spanish language every spare minute. OK...I never had many spare minutes - so my Spanish - according to my Spanish friend at least - was, she confided with certain assurance "horrible" (said with a Spanish accent!) OK so I forgot the tilde over the 'n' one Christmas changing her Christmas card from "Happy New Year" to "Happy New Anus" - but the point is...I tried!

      I then teamed up with the famous restauranteur Pierre Levicky (famous for the Pierre Victoire chain of restaurants). He was running an estate agency and had just parted waves with his Spanish business partner. I came in to build up his business channel so he could sell the business for a profit (and concentrate on another business venture he'd lined up for himself - this guy is a true entrepreneur!). We turned the business around ...and as the business grew so did I (with my pregnancy!). He then sold the business and I allowed myself to put my feet up - a few weeks later my daughter was born 5 weeks prematurely. Perhaps I'd been overdoing things?

      Anyway great birth experience with no pain relief because they didn't believe in giving you anything unless it was an emergency (boy was that a shock...and I found this out only when it was too late to go back home to England).

      Pierre's ex-business partner Maite was a close friend of mine and she also came to be my birth partner (as my hubby lived/worked in the UK). It was funny since she didn't speak English - but what she did do was speak Spanish more slowly so I could understand it!

      After my daughter was born, she invited me to join her business as a partner - which I did. With my partner working in the UK, I became the sole carer for my little one and worked on the business with Maite inbetween feeds/sleeps etc while also employing builders/architects to rebuild my house by the sea and keeping them focused etc.

      My Spanish language improved ...well it had to - because there were the inevitable trips to the doctor who only spoke Spanish - and my daughter puked for England and loved getting high temperatures which worried me sick of 103-105!

      After 3 1/2 years in Spain - I finally came back to the UK because I wanted to spend more time with my father who had cancer - and of course more time with my partner who was missing out on our daughter growing up as we only got to see him every other weekend.

      This career break was honestly one of the best things I ever did - I still have my properties in Spain and loved it out there and one day will go back! I recommend if you're going to have a career break - make it a real adventure and don't just pussyfoot around!!

      UPDATE!
      I forgot to mention that I had also arranged for "This Morning" to come across and film me for the day to talk about my life in Spain (ITV lifestyle programme) - which was a bit of a shock for friends and family who were having their toast & coffee one morning...only to find me looking right back at them LOL (I'd only told immediate family about it!).

      COMING BACK HOME TO THE UK
      You know I mentioned that there's always a "pay back"?

      Well, for various reason we came back penniless...(OK Plymouth City Council didn't pay the c£20K they owed my self employed partner ...you got it out of me (!)... and they did this to various small businesses) and the cost of the rebuild was higher than anticipated - so we'd used up all our available money thinking Plymouth City Council wouldn't/couldn't possibly NOT pay a bill they owed...they were simply being tardy in payment. BOY was THAT naive!!

      Well...we'd been talking about returning to the UK anyway because my father was ill with cancer and because we only saw each other once every other weekend. So things progressed more quickly when we ran out of money LOL!! :-)

      We had to borrow £5K from my partners sister to stay afloat and buy food because our credit cards were maxed and my best mate let us rent her house for £0 rent for the first 3 months until we could get some work/get back on our feet. It took us a little over a year to pay this back - and bless them they didn't want any interest payments!

      My brother runs a HP LaserJet and DesignJet repair business and said he needed my help as soon as my feet touched the ground on UK soil! (He was being sensitive....because it was actually the other way around!). I now work there as the contracts manager and have increased the contracts revenue for his business by 4 fold since taking over this side of the business - and streamlined his systems for him. My parents initially helped to care for my daughter in the early months while I worked - but then I gradually got my daughter a full time placement with Kiddi Caru Nursery which she loved (she's now going to school). My partner decided to take regular employment rather than be self employed - so we could another avoid a financial hit. It was hard work - and we had no chance to sit on our laurels.

      It's now 3 years later - we bought a 4 bed house last year for £250,000 (when I say bought I mean we got a hefty mortgage ;-) ) and I'm finding my dream of being able to foster children has been realised and we're now fostering teenage girls.

      We're gradually clawing our way back to a good living - and aim to go on our first proper holiday this year. It's been hard work...but the coming back has also been a journey of discovery too!

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        14.08.2008 16:29
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        A way to a better job

        A career break is not necessarily a profession, although Dooyoo put this category under the section for professions/occupations.

        I only had one serious career break and it was 3 years ago.

        I had worked for 8 years in 3 different jobs and I needed a break.

        I resigned from my job, at that time I was working as a teacher. I knew that it would be easy to go back into the profession if I wanted to.

        In August I left London and went on holiday to Spain and Greece for one month and while on holiday I met a group of Australians and joined them for a tour of Italy, Croatia, Rumania and Bulgaria by car. It was a great experience and we had terrific fun. In November I went to India and stayed there until February, doing most of the South. I then came back to London for a couple of months to work as a part time teacher, and left again in May after securing a contract for the next year at one London school.

        I settled in Barcelona withouth meaning too. I end up finding a partner there and sooner than I knew it, and sooner than I wanted it, I was working as an English teacher and thinking whether I should go back to London.

        I decided not to go back.

        I became very fluent in Spanish, but unfortunately things with my partner were no longer as at the beginning. I arrived in London in November, hardly the most exciting time to be back. I had sent my CV to few agencies and I had few interviews lined up.

        I was also fed up with teaching. Through a friend of mine I heard that a bank was looking for a support person on their fixed income desk for Spain and Italy and deciced to give it a try.

        Money was and is still very good, but the hours are a killer. We start at 7 am and do not finish before 6 every day.

        I progressed within the department and I am now quite busy, although I still have time to write on Dooyoo.

        In the end I can say that the career break worked for me since it allowed me to take time, relax, and eventually found a better job.

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          05.11.2006 19:38
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          A welcome break from stress and responsibility

          Down-sizing and career breaks are becoming increasingly more common in the 30’s and upwards age groups. I have spent eleven years working in the financial markets in London and in the last few years, have seen two colleagues leave their senior financial positions, one set up on his own as a photographer and the other moved to Cornwall to work on boats. Quite a change from their city jobs but both felt it was the right thing to do for themselves and their families. Certainly everybody admired them for it and I think a few envied them as well. For those who would like or need to do something less permanent, a career break could be an option. I did this in 2004 and my review is based on my own experience.

          Objectives
          ============

          It is not wise to rush into a decision to take a career break, not least because of the temporary drying up of regular funds that you will need to ensure you are financially prepared for. So before you do anything else make sure you have the finances sorted, a clear reason for taking a break and a plan as to what you will do with the time out.

          One of the obvious first questions if you are not happy at work is can you fix your dissatisfaction more easily by finding a new job or company. If the answer is definitely no and you still want to take a longer break, then you now need to decide what will you do with this time. This could include: travel, study, re-training, time with family, voluntary work or a major project around the house. When you are trying to get back onto the career ladder later, it will be far easier if you can demonstrate that you have used this time constructively. I decided to use my time out to go travelling, but more of that later.

          Sabbatical or Resignation
          ====================

          If you work for a larger company then it is possible they will have a sabbatical scheme, whereby employees who have been with the company a certain length of time can apply for unpaid extended leave. My own company had such a scheme, open to employees with over five years service and granting up to 6 months leave if you and your manager can demonstrate how your work will be covered. The advantages to this are fairly obvious, you know where you will stand when you get home and have less financial worries. Six months after I took my career break, a friend working elsewhere decided to take the plunge and she did this as a sabbatical, which worked for her and her company.

          I did not attempt to take advantage of the sabbatical scheme my own company had. I had been an employee for seven years and the first five were fantastic, but corporate re-structuring came along, people I liked left and although I stayed another two years out of loyalty I finally realised that I would never be as happy there as I once had been. It was the end of the road. As the last two years had been quite draining, I simply did not feel able to step right back onto the career ladder, I wanted to recharge my batteries and realised that this would be the best opportunity for a long time to indulge my passion for travelling, for more than two weeks at a time.

          Before taking the plunge and resigning however, I sought out advice from a number of people including colleagues, family, friends and recruitment consultants. In the case of the latter, I was particularly interested to obtain a number of opinions on how a break might be perceived on my CV, what the job market was like at that time and how they anticipated it to be on my scheduled return six months later.

          The answer was typically that a career break would neither damage nor enhance my CV, but that I was in the good position of being well established in my field and was not starting out. I also had it confirmed that the job market for accountants was better than it had been the few years previously and that my planned return at the beginning of the year could not be better.

          Not being independently wealthy and being career conscious, if the answer had been something different it might have made me feel more cautious. One individual I met travelling (now my husband) experienced great difficulty in getting back into his field, software development, when he returned. In fact he had to change career, although this is working out to his advantage as he loves his new career as a Catastrophe Analyst, utilises his old skills extensively and less than a year into his new career he got an opportunity in Bermuda.

          Practical planning
          ==============

          A good and obvious starting point is the budget. I did not intend to work so for me this boiled down to how much spare money do I have and how long can I make it last. A gap year student perhaps only needs to think about expenses during the trip, but it was not so straightforward for me as a homeowner and not living or wishing to live with parents at any point!

          I won’t go through my budget planning process in detail, suffice to say that it included consideration of the following: continuing mortgage payments and household bills, living expenses in UK between finishing work and leaving the country, international flights, an approximate number of regional flights, X nights accommodation overseas, living expenses overseas and living expenses in the UK upon my return for an unknown period of time, I estimated a few months. I did research to come up with reasonable estimates for regional flight process and average living costs in the countries I planned to visit.

          Based on the finance and also my own preference, I decided to take at least six months off work and spend four of these travelling. With hindsight, I could have travelled a bit longer as I found a new job very quickly, but I did not know this would be the case and was anxious not to use up my entire savings in the process!

          After my last day at work I allowed myself 6 weeks for planning the trip and also for sorting out my affairs at home. My priority was to ensure that my property would be looked after, as I was only going to be away for four months it did not make sense to rent it out as I would have the hassle of putting my own belongings into storage and there was no guarantee of finding a short term tenant anyway. Also it was my home and I just did not want anybody else in it.

          I found the following steps to be adequate in taking care of my property related issues. I made sure that I had a standing order set up to keep power connected but I terminated my phone line after checking that I could keep the same number when I wanted to get reconnected. I was already paying council tax and my maintenance charge (leasehold flat) by direct debit / standing order. I decided not to set the heating to come on at all whilst I was away as the flat has adjacent flats on all sides and never gets very cold so no risk of pipes freezing, I was also travelling September to December so not the coldest part of the year anyway.

          In case of emergencies and also for the occasional check, I left spare keys with my sister and also with a neighbour, what with the flat being in London and my sister living in Scotland. I knew that my sister would be staying in the flat one weekend whilst I was away so would be able to check it over then too.

          I arranged to have my mail redirected to my sister whilst I was away, this is easy to set up with some proof or identification and address and it worked to a point although as she might testify, it proved difficult to get the redirection ended once I was back! I had neighbours keep an eye on my mailbox for anything that slipped through the net and also to remove flyers to avoid the mailbox spilling over.

          Other direct debits set up for whilst I was travelling were with my credit card companies, to take full payment each month automatically as I planned to use my credit cards for much of the trip.

          My travelling
          =============

          As this isn’t a travel review I won’t describe any of the places I visited but rather my planning, thinking and experiences as a single female traveller. The first decision I was faced with was where to go, there are several countries I wanted to see in Asia and several more in South America and at first I considered going to both continents.

          I soon realised that within the timeframe of the overall trip I would be moving every few days to get through all the places I wanted to see. I didn’t want to be doing this for four months, I wanted to ensure that I had time to settle into certain places along the way, unpack completely and live the place a little. My decision to focus upon Asia was brought about because there were perhaps slightly more countries in Asia that I wanted to see and also because as this was my first big trip by myself, I felt that Asia was a safer continent for a lone female traveller.

          Many people that decide to do a trip like this do little planning in advance beyond having a vague idea of what countries they wish to visit. This is not a bad approach, however I love planning trips and as I had six weeks in which to do it, I planned out my route quite carefully in advance and I had good ideas about what dates I would move on from country to country. I decided to start in Beijing, criss cross my way southwards through China, down to Hong Kong and then follow a circuit round South East Asia before my final stop in Thailand.

          I think my route made good sense, it enabled me to minimise the travel time between countries and as I don’t like long haul economy flights, I was able to book a relatively cheap open jaw business class ticket from the UK to Beijing but back from Bangkok. My treat to myself.

          If I were doing the trip again, I would probably not plan quite so much in advance. I did change my plans a couple of times, I grew exhausted by China and decided to go to Hong Kong a few days early and I also took a detour to Bali to meet up with an old school-friend. I found it very easy to book everything in Asia, there seems to be much more availability everywhere and fares are generally more flexible, hence no need for the over-planning.

          Many of my fellow travellers would not book any accommodation and instead look for it when they arrive. I had booked some accommodation before I left the UK, in particular my accommodation in China for when I first arrived. Generally though I would book accommodation via the internet a few days before I was due to arrive somewhere. My personal choice is to have a destination in mind when I arrive in a new location.

          Coming home
          =============

          I had read that coming home can be a little depressing after all the excitement of the travelling. To combat this I decided to return home a few days before Christmas and it was an excellent decision as I was excited to be home and enjoyed catching up with people in the midst of the festivities. It also meant I could consciously decide not to concern myself with looking for a new job for a couple of weeks and I made this my New Year task.

          In the first week of January, I started to call the recruitment agencies. I set up four meetings that week, dusted down the suit and eased myself back into the routine of heading into the city with the other suits. I was not flooded with potential suitable jobs, however I was told of two or three and in fact the one that I was told about during my very first recruitment agency meeting was the one I got, accepted and was at a higher level and salary than the job I had left. With the security of having this in the bag, I asked for a few weeks more off before starting and rejoined the workforce mid-February.

          In most other respects, I picked up where I left off.

          My thoughts
          ============

          I did not take a gap year either between A levels and university or between university and work and so am probably biased towards the advantages of travelling later on. Nevertheless my personal view is that 18 is very young to be setting off on such an adventure and perhaps a few more years of life experience, in particular living away from parents might be a good idea first.

          Travelling in early 20’s seems a better option and I think it is the ideal age to meet lots of other like-minded people and have a memorable and rewarding life experience. But if you are interested in career (and I am not saying everybody should be) then I don’t agree with the particular and common view (amongst students) that travel will enhance the CV. Speaking as a professional with considerable involvement in recruitment over the years, I would say the opposite. I would be quite wary of somebody just back from travelling with no career track record, as I would question their dedication and wonder if they are just saving up for the next trip, a lot of employers will think this way.

          In some respects I think travelling as a 30-something was harder as it is less common and so not as easy to find like-minded companions. As I didn’t want to stay in back-packer places I did not fall in, hang out and end up travelling around with a huge crowd of people, although if I had wanted to, the easy thing to do would have been to downgrade my accommodation a little! Instead my trip was about culture, history, local people and seeing places that I wanted to see. But I met various travellers along the way (including my now husband who I met at a bus stop in a village in Cambodia) and never felt lonely even when alone. I personally find I am more resourceful, confident and happier in my own company than I was in my 20’s and this was a vital factor in my trip’s success.

          I will always remember my career break, I feel like I earned it after 12 years and no matter what I go on to achieve in my career, I don’t think I will ever be as proud as I am for having my little four month adventure by myself in Asia.

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