Why It Pays To Take Time Off In Between Jobs (And How Much You Should Take)

Time off between jobs can come in a variety of ways. You could quit a job that was causing you burnout and now your goal is to take an entire year to travel. You want to recharge and possibly make a career change at the end of your vacation. Or, perhaps you were laid off and now you're spending the days scrolling through employment opportunities on LinkedIn. It goes without saying that this particular period is going to be challenging — one filled with some amount of anxiety. 

In a best case scenario, your time off is arriving with a guarantee of a new role waiting for you someplace else. This is likely to happen if you're being offered a new job from a different employer whilst still at your current company. You're sure that it's a role you'd be able to do well. You're excited about the prospect of change. You're eager to learn and grow. Congratulations. 

You might think that walking out of your old job and waltzing into your new one is something you should do immediately (or as soon as your new employer wants you to). Kerry Schofield of Good.Co told Business Insider that people either don't want to appear "lazy or non-committed" or they're worried about things like health insurance. Even with those concerns (which can be navigated to your benefit), there is a case to be made as to why it pays to take a breather between the two roles. Here's why. 

Taking time off can help you destress, realign, and better prepare for the new role

Even though there are ways to romanticize your life while working a full-time job, very few of us actually do so. Our lives tend to revolve around routine — wake up, get to work, get home, meal prep, and sleep. Weekends are usually packed with errands you couldn't do during the weekend. Taking a much-needed break before taking on a new career responsibility can be good for your mental and emotional health. It could also give you some time to shift gears and prep for your new role, whether that means familiarizing yourself with company policies or mind-mapping some creative ideas for projects you'd like to introduce. 

Executive coach at Next Step Partners Rebecca Zucker writes in Harvard Business Review that "this opportunity may not come again for several years." You could use your time off to unwind, realign, and maybe even take up a new hobby. When life gets busy, things like reading and learning a new language tend to invariably end up on a bucket list. Perhaps, it's time to pull those off the bucket list and get them going now. 

Schofield shared with Business Insider that the break could actually pay off in the long run. "Humans are creatures of habit, and we find it hard to make abrupt changes. Taking some time to put an old job and lifestyle to bed before starting fresh can be vital for psychological health and optimizing performance."

How much time is the right amount of time?

How much time to take off actually depends on a variety of factors — the needs of the company that's hiring you, commitments you want to fulfill at your old role before you leave, financial concerns like health insurance and waiting till the end of the year for a bonus, and having enough time to prep for your new job. 

If the concern is to do with health insurance, you would want to ensure you're covered by your old company till your last day of work and till your new insurance kicks in. This might mean staying on in your old position till the beginning of a new month. If you want to maintain a good relationship with your old employers, take the time you need to tie-up loose ends or train your successor. If the new company wants you right away for a number of reasons including wanting you to head projects that they've already set in place, you could try negotiating some time off after those commitments are completed. 

The most time you could probably ask for might be a month, although for some people, even just a week will suffice. Self-awareness is key when negotiating your time off, according to Schofield. What's your personality? What kind or role are you going into? Would too much time off make you feel bored? These are all good questions to ask yourself.