. interview with Kristin: Taking a career break .

Armed with a business degree from 1 of the most prestigious university in Singapore (SMU), Kristin looks set for a bright future. Indeed, within months of her graduation, the capable girl managed to land herself a managerial position with the People’s Association where she was tasked to work closely with the grassroots organizations to plan community events, produce advertising materials and follow up on community feedback. However, a year into the working world, it hit upon Kristin that the job wasn’t her cup of tea and that she wasn’t getting any job satisfaction out of it. With only courage to spare, she made the biggest decision of her life by taking the route that most of her peers would have never even thought of – A career break to live life!

What are the factors that have spurred you to venture out of your comfort zone to take a short career break? 

Over the last few months, putting it as diplomatically as possible, the cons of work gradually outweighed the pros. Many changes occurred, including how staff were treated, how we were supposed to do our work, and even our physical workspaces. It made me think about things, and I realize, not only was I not happy with the changes, I was not happy with the type of work I was doing because I wanted to work on more creative areas! Fleeting thoughts of leaving suddenly just came and went, and these thoughts grew stronger.

 It helped very much that I had very strong support from those close to me. My mum suddenly got excited, insisting that we should take a family holiday once I quit; my boyfriend was thrilled that I would suddenly have freed up so much extra time to invest in learning more about what I wanted, and friends encouraged me, saying that I should chase after what I really want. That, plus it would have been terrible had I continued to stay on at my current job due to procrastination to find jobs, and look back at this point in 10 years time wishing that I should have left the place to fight for what I wanted when I had the chance.

Fear of not being able to find a job after a career break is 1 of the main reasons that stops people from taking a sabbatical. As such, how are you able to convince yourself to overcome this challenge?

Even up to this point, after making the decision to leave the job quite some time ago, I still am feeling rather fearful of not being hired. However, there are still some things that keep me positive about getting a job after this period. Age, for one, is on my side (I hope!). I graduated a year ago, and am extremely keen to learn and explore. As such, I am very willing to start over again doing a fresh graduate job with an equivalent pay. I think fresh graduates are decently in demand now, and I am a graduate willing to accept a pay cut, and with a year’s experience of work! So I am hedging that this would put me in good light to start anew. I am also currently keeping my eyes open for marketing jobs. Having friends working in the industry, they have been really helpful so far in updating me with companies hiring and those which offer relevant job scopes to what I am looking for and can contribute to. These constant updates are also another area which could significantly aid my job hunt.

Some people take a sabbatical to travel around the globe, while others take this opportunity to pursue a hobby (e.g. photography/cooking/freelance writing). What are your plans for your extended time off?

I plan to take at least 4 months off (September 2011 – December 2011) following this job, and am really excited to finally have a taste of life once more outside work! After coming back from Exchange in Sweden, I happen to suffer a serious case of wanderlust. As such, I have a series of 5 continents of travels lined up over these 4 months! In this order – Cambodia, Peru, Galapagos Islands, Holland, Brisbane, Los Angeles and Las Vegas! Am looking forward to all of these trips, but am particularly excited with the trip to South America! Besides visiting Machu Picchu which I never thought I would even go to within the decade, I get to visit Galapagos, which I always wanted to go to as a child. Ever being the geek, Galapagos caught my attention at that age due to it’s diversity of strange and unique animals and because it was the place where Charles Darwin discovered evolution. I also wanted to take this time off to develop myself.

Over doing marketing courses in university, and various event planning for my CCAs, I realized that I really enjoy creating – thinking of event themes, designing posters, writing taglines that capture an idea or feeling, even doing out presentation slides! I am not very good at it (as compared to my brilliant friends), but I really do like it. Overseas, I have taken the opportunity to apply some basic but technical ideas of photography into my pictures (like aperture priority!).

Other days when I am in Singapore, I am immersing myself in Interior Design classes at NAFA, dabbling in Adobe Photoshop, and on the to-do list are Infographic Design, submitting Eyeka Asia (a site that opens up competitions for designers) and Threadless T-shirt entries and iPhone Programming.

How do you face up to the criticism from others who feel that we should take advantage of our youth and drive to climb the corporate ladder instead of taking the time to discover more about ourselves and identity?

Wow, this question stumped me because there’s so much to it! Regarding this, I think that everyone should aspire to balance both career progression and self-discovery. The thing with this this criticism is that, if everyone focuses too much on climbing the corporate ladder and neglects time to invest in finding out more about themselves, it becomes scary because, how much have they actually grown as a person? Yes, perhaps after some years, they get more responsibilities, they get higher salaries and more power. But what if what they are doing does not bring them happiness?  Or what if they lose themselves like clockwork to just become a tiny little part in the grand scheme of things, and they don’t know what they’re doing anymore or why exactly are they doing it? I see many people slogging their lives away unhappily, wishing their day would end, and multiplying the same misery and dread over many years in exchange for security and money. But is it worth such a trade?

On the other hand, to plunge into discovering more about ourselves and identity over these youthful years instead of moving up the rungs of the corporate ladder does come with its own set of problems too. It is a good argument, this wastage of youth and drive. I believe that people derive happiness from many different places – one of which is success over something you have put in effort to finishing. It could be success in finishing a marathon, finishing baking a cake or finishing a project. An eternal search of self-discovery may help in understanding yourself more and gaining stronger direction in where you are heading. However, I also think it would be a waste if this search denies you in finishing something, which is something that climbing up one’s career can provide. To make use of youth and drive to it’s fullest potential to deliver an accolade of achievements (many finishes) over one’s life would also be ideal.

Hence, I think that the best mix would be to have a job that you know why you are in it, and that the reason that you are in it fuels your appetite for life to grow and discover into a better person. Pity, easier said than done.
At least to me, the break for self-discovery still makes sense because without this exploration towards what I want to do, I may be using my youth and drive to climb the wrong corporate ladder and get myself high up to somewhere I didn’t even want to be. I’d rather take a longer time to find the right ladder than take a quicker time to waste my life scaling the wrong one.

2 responses to “. interview with Kristin: Taking a career break .

  1. Pingback: 12 « plant a dream

  2. Pingback: . interview with Kristin: After her sabbatical . | the girl at the traffic light junction

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