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Working During a Mini Career Break

By: Sarah Knowles BA, MA - Updated: 19 Sep 2010 | comments*Discuss
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Think of it as a working holiday. Doing paid work on a mini career break can provide you with a wealth of new experiences, whilst paying for the trip at the same time. If you can swing it, the advantages are endless – but get permission from your boss first!

Paid Work

Unfortunately, most people don't choose to do paid work during a mini career break, as they last only up to one month so it doesn't seem worth the effort. However, working for pay is definitely an option – and can both be an unusual way to experience working abroad while helping test the waters to possibly make a more permanent commitment.

If you are considering working elsewhere, however, getting permission from your boss is key. Your employer may not allow you to undertake any paid work, although if the work is in an entirely different field it may not be an issue. Options can include:

  • Unskilled Labour. Ever fancied working in an Australian bar, or being a waitress in Ibiza? Taking on paid work could finance your trip. Working holidays don't always require visas or work permits – it depends what country you go to – so check carefully well in advance of your departure. If you're an IT whizz back in the UK, your boss probably won't mind you taking a month off to pick apples in Argentina.
  • Teacher Exchanges. This is perhaps one of the easiest exchanges to negotiate. Contact the education authority in your chosen country to see what's on offer, or contact the British Council for more details. If you teach English or are qualified in TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), a teacher exchange will benefit both you and your students.
  • Working in Your Field. Most of us have transferable skills, aptitudes and abilities, and many also have degrees or qualifications that are valuable the world over. Many countries, especially developing ones, could use help for a month, although usually the work is unpaid.
  • Voluntary Work. Undertaking voluntary work is fairly common for people going on mini career breaks. Often unpaid work programmes have weekly, fortnightly or monthly options, and some come with stipends which can cover either housing, airfare or both. Look online to see what programmes are available. Meaningful travel has numerous other benefits as well. Bosses look favourably on employees who want to help others, so taking on voluntary work can usually guarantee your getting time off. You will also learn transferable skills that can help your career back home.

Some of the more popular options include:

  • Conservation/Environmental Projects. Whether you are an administrator, have great technical/computer skills or love manual labour, there is a volunteer position for you. Help save the rainforest or return built-up land to a more pristine state. Environmental projects abound the world over.
  • People Projects. HIV/AIDS education in Africa or helping a refugee camp are just some of the challenges you could tackle volunteering in a people project abroad. Volunteering on a career break doesn't have to take place in a developing country – English teachers, for example, are needed even in countries where English is the main language!
  • Wildlife. Work in an African game reserve or help save endangered animals in South America. Plenty of options are around, some of which could even lead to a new career. Look online to see what programme suits you best.
  • Working on a Kibbutz. A kibbutz is a voluntary community in Israel, started at the turn of the century by Jewish immigrants. While originally they were based on the principles of agriculture, today most combine socialist with Zionist principles. Working on a kibbutz is hard, both physically and mentally, but it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience you won't regret.

    Points to Consider

    • Check beforehand to see if you and your family will need visas, work and/or resident permits – either for volunteer or paid positions. Don't forget that some countries also require all foreigners to register with their consulate or embassy within a few days or weeks of entering.
    • Advanced language skills are often required for many positions. You may be required to prove your fluency before beginning work.
    • Degrees obtained in the UK are not always worth the same abroad, and for some jobs you may need special licensing. Similarly, not all UK professional qualifications are recognised elsewhere. Nationals of the EEA (European Economic Area) or EU (European Union) have the right to work in all member states, but qualifications may be viewed differently.

    Mini career breaks that involve work, either paid or unpaid, can allow you to see a culture from the inside. You'll get a lot more from your trip than you would from a short holiday, even if your sojourn only lasts a few weeks. Working abroad can open up a whole new world.

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