The case for taking a mini-retirement
Have you ever had a job so soul-sucking that you hated the thought of waking up and starting your commute? This job may have had horrible coworkers, a boss that couldn’t seem to appreciate you, or the work itself was way too tedious and boring. Regardless of whether or not you hated the job, I am sure that the thought of quitting may have crossed your mind. Perhaps you may have already quit a job or two. The next time you quit your job, I want you to consider a new approach.
This approach for quitting your next job is to help you maximize your time between jobs. In the ideal case, before you quit any job you should definitely have some interviews lined up and ideally, you should also have some actual offers as well. However, before accepting your next job and you start the daily grind all over again, I propose that you take a mini-retirement.
Rediscover what work means to you
The idea of a mini-retirement originally came from author and lifestyle designer Tim Ferriss, in his book The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich. In this book, he describes the mini-retirement as a period of time in which you are not working the typical job. This is not a sabbatical nor is it a time where you do absolutely no work either. A mini-retirement serves the purpose of self-discovery. This can be done by taking six months to a year traveling the world, taking three months to learn a new craft, or simply taking a month to read some books or exercise more.
The mini-retirement is a reset button — a very necessary reset button for anyone who has worked in a job they didn’t like for a year or more. The danger in hopping from one job to another without taking a substantial break is that you may fall into a pattern where you find yourself in the same situation over and over again. For the first two years of my career, I found myself constantly trying to climb the corporate ladder.
I never seemed to fit in with any of the teams I was working with. I was self-serving and only cared about collecting accolades and titles. I thought that if I had any large gaps between jobs in my resume, I would look like an unfavorable candidate to the next hiring manager. I was always seeking the next dream job. When I finally got into the best job I could ever ask for, I was miserable. It was only after taking a necessary six-month break from 2017-2018 that I saw what my faults were and how to fix them.
During those six months I was working as a freelance marketer but, I didn’t work for more than fifteen hours each week. The rest of my time was spent staying home, reading, writing, watching anime, and spending time with friends and family. Those six months helped me to see how important it is to take long breaks. This break, in particular, was crucial for my personal and professional development.
After that six-month mini-retirement, I decided to pivot and live in China as an English teacher. One year and ten months later, I decided to take another mini-retirement. This time I am traveling the world for an indefinite period of time. I’m financing this trip with part-time copywriting work, working remotely from whichever country I decide to live in.
How you should set up your own mini-retirement
There are several steps that you need to take to make sure you can come back to the professional world, whether you want your mini-retirement to last one month or one year. You don’t need to go on some pilgrimage around the world if you don’t want to. Your mini-retirement can be as simple as staying home and working on your own personal projects. What is important to note is that you have to create a proper plan before quitting your job.
The first and most critical part of your plan will be your finances. Whether you are in a job you love or you are in a job you really need to leave, you should be considering how you are creating and managing your financial runway. Your financial runway is an account, ideally a savings account, that is used to store cash for future monthly expenses. In the most ideal scenario, you should be saving enough money to have three to six months of your total monthly expenses covered if you aren’t working. These expenses include your average monthly expenses for food and general outings, your rent, and your bills (credit card, student loans, etc.). The best way to make sure that this actually gets done is to automate your savings.
Once you’ve established what that exact amount is and you actually save that money, then you should consider what your mini-retirement will look like. The only goal you should set for yourself when designing your mini-retirement is making it so that you learn something. I say this because there will come a time, very early within your mini-retirement, where you will feel aimlessness kick in. You will want to work, work on anything, to feel a sense of purpose and to tackle your inevitable boredom.
During my first mini-retirement, I wanted to learn what was I doing wrong when it came to connecting with my past coworkers. It was a time for self-reflection and the goal was to become a better team member in future jobs. During my second mini-retirement (the one I am doing now) my goal is to learn how to be a better writer.
You want to make sure you have a clear goal to make sure you maximize your mini-retirement. That goal can be something as simple as, “I want to learn how to cook all of the recipes in that cookbook my aunt bought me last Christmas.” Keep the goal simple and if for whatever reason you don’t accomplish it during your first mini-retirement, you can always do another one in the future!
Telling your boss you’re leaving and what to expect afterward
Once come to terms that it’s time to leave your job, saved your money, and designed your mini-retirement, the next step is to tell your boss. The best way to approach this is by sending a simple 30-days notice email (or two-weeks notice if you are really in a hurry) and setting up an exit-interview. I suggest doing this so you can leave on the best of terms, in the case that after your mini-retirement you have an epiphany and realize that you actually like the job you’re in and want to come back.
You don’t need to be too specific when letting your boss know your future plans. Your reason for leaving can be as simple as, “I’m doing this to focus on my mental health,” or “I am taking a break from work to reconsider what I want from my career.” If you are a great asset to your team, your boss and your HR representative will try their best to keep you. Stand firm and let them know that you put a lot of thought into this decision and won’t be swayed. Even if there is ill-will between you and the boss (or any other member of your team) take the high ground and be as polite as possible throughout the entire transition period.
Once the news that you are leaving spreads across the office, your coworkers will inevitably ask why you’re leaving and what you are planning to do next. How much information you want to tell them is up to you, but I personally tend to be vague unless I have a strong connection with whoever is asking me. Most people won’t understand why you’re leaving if you tell them that you’re quitting to take a six-month break to work on yourself. Save yourself the time and let them find out on their own after you leave.
After your last day at work, your immediate challenges will be:
- dealing with boredom,
- avoiding work for work’s sake,
- and immediately going into a new job.
You will not be the only person that has ever taken a mini-retirement. One way to help yourself stay true to your decision and keep pushing forward will be to research what other people have done or are currently doing during their own mini-retirements. Reading The 4-Hour Workweek or watching videos on Youtube are two resources to leverage. And remember, if at any point you feel like you want to end your mini-retirement early, that is okay too. You are in complete control.
What to do when you want to go back into the professional world
Now while reading this, I am sure at some point you asked yourself, “This sounds great and all, but what do I do after the mini-retirement is over? How do I get my next job?” Use what you’ve learned and the story of planning your mini-retirement in your resume. It certainly makes for a more interesting story if, during your mini-retirement, you made an adventure of it and traveled. However, if that isn’t what you did that is fine too.
Showcase the positives of the mini-retirement. What did you learn? How did it make you a better person? What did you come away with? If you can answer these questions and use them to create a narrative, the hiring manager interviewing you will be more keen on what you have to say. If you want to know how to actually write this in your resume, there are resources on LinkedIn that you can use if you research, “how to explain resume/career gaps.” There are a ton of career experts who have written about this topic and their information is free!
If you’ve read up to this point, I want to thank you for your time. Please share this article with someone you know who may need their own mini-retirement. If you have any questions, you can send me a tweet or a message on Instagram. I hope this article helped you consider the idea of a mini-retirement. You don’t need to wait until you’re 65 years-old to enjoy some much needed time off.
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