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Could a Vacation Help Boost Your Career?

Reasons why a getaway could help you get ahead

Mature adult relaxing on hammock, Take that vacation that will boost your career

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Rest easy: Your vacation could actually be good for your career

En español | Apparently, some professionals are so addicted to 24/7 work that employers are paying them extra to take vacation, according to a post in the Boston Globe. The story focuses on young technology firms, but the experienced professionals I have encountered as a recruiter and coach tend to take short vacations, if any, or to use paid time off to do errands rather than to relax. Here are five reasons why taking a proper vacation — not a working vacation, not an errand-filled staycation — actually enhances your career:

1. You get better, more creative ideas.

Remember how you solved that last crossword puzzle answer in the shower? It’s not a coincidence that when we are stuck on something, thinking harder about it often doesn’t help, while doing something completely different and often mundane leads to a breakthrough. When you relax, you get better, more creative ideas. We think out of the box when we’re actually out of the box! Vacations pull us away from the day-to-day, giving us a week-long “shower” to dislodge the myriad ideas, solutions and alternative thinking otherwise trapped in our overworked brain. An errand-filled staycation won’t provide the same benefit because you’re still working (albeit for your household and not your employer) and your mind is probably not relaxing enough to generate the creative breakthrough.

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2. You work more efficiently before and afterwards.

How many times have you gotten so much more done in that last hour you were finishing up to catch a train? A hard-and-fast deadline is a mighty incentive. We figure out what to discard from our inbox, how to be more concise in our conversations, how to edit ruthlessly and deliver a good-enough product. If you let yourself believe that you can just push your work out by skipping vacation, you take away that extra productivity before the big rush to leave. On the return side, when we’re back in the office with hundreds of emails, we are reminded how many of these multiple email chains solve themselves and see firsthand how 300 emails quickly winnow down to a few dozen substantive action items. Time away is a powerful editing device that reminds you what really matters.

3. You test-drive contingency plans.

Your office, department and immediate team have to function without you, just as you should know how to function without a colleague. True vacations are the ultimate test run of your coverage strategy. You can see how well you have delegated daily responsibilities and strategic decision-making. You can identify who on your team needs extra coaching or perhaps just extra information on what needs to be done. In this way, the vacation enhances the workplace productivity for you and your entire team.

4. You set boundaries around overwork.

You don’t want your team to think you do not trust them. You don’t want your colleagues to see you as the person who has to be involved in everything. You don’t want senior management to think you should always be there. A vacation sets important boundaries with your team, peers and management to limit overwork and promote sustainability.

See also: Avoid burnout on the job

5. You prime yourself for a promotion.

If you can’t even break away for vacation, you surely can’t break away forever to fill a promotion! Being able to step away means that you have taken care of your scope of responsibility and could be promoted out of your role. Being tethered to your day-to-day role means you have to stay exactly where you are. Just remember that one or two weeks away is not enough for senior management to suddenly think promotion; you still need to raise your hand and make your case.

Aside from the fun and other personal benefits of time off, vacations support, enhance and promote your career progress. If your work routine or processes do not support a vacation, you need to restructure your work environment. If your relationships with your team, peers or management do not foster support for a vacation, you need to change expectations. If you're telling yourself that you don’t want or don’t need a vacation, then you need to change your mindset and start focusing on how vacations add value to your work. So count up those remaining vacation days and schedule them before the close of the year.

Caroline Ceniza-Levine is a career expert with SixFigureStart®. She is a former recruiter in management consulting, financial services, media, technology and pharma/ biotech.

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