How Vacations Help Your Career

Not surprisingly, I’m probably one of the most vocal people you’ll meet who’s always on a soapbox about how important vacations and time off are for your career.

Even if you’re happy at your job, you probably still can’t wait to put your out of office away message up for the upcoming holiday weekend. Amirite?!

And if you’re feeling burned out, a vacation can seem even more exciting – like relief.

In the last few months, I’ve spoken to a number of people who say they feel guilty about taking a vacation. Some have said it’s because work is so crazy they can’t ask for the time off, or would be so overwhelmed coming back after a week of not checking email. Some have said they are trying to make a career change and think they should be taking the time to job search or figure out their transition.

If either of these describe how you feel about vacation, please read on for just a few of the ways that a vacation helps your career and a future job search.


First of all, if you’re too tired physically or mentally to think about what comes next in your career or stay on top of the work you have, a vacation is a critical step to recharging your batteries. You have to be refreshed and un-frazzled to tackle a job search, career change, or even just stay your best in your work.

People who are tired and burned out are less productive, make more mistakes, and let’s face it - they aren’t super fun to work with.

We are all human. And all of us probably need more sleep than we’re currently getting, more exercise, and more down time. A week isn’t going to make it all better, but it will definitely help.

New Ideas

Once you’re more rested, your energy comes back not just for what you routinely have to do, but for other exciting ideas and projects too.

Did you know that Bill Gates took Think Weeks every year where he’d take himself into nature and away from daily distractions to do some big picture thinking for Microsoft?

What would happen if you took a week to read all those articles and books you had saved for later? Or if you took some time to journal while on vacation? You might be surprised what might pop up for you – ideas, thoughts, important realizations, or reflections for a career transition or for your job.  

In a study from over a decade ago, researchers from the University of Toronto found that being in a better mode boosts creativity. See, there's a reason that when you're unhappy in your job it's harder to tackle challenging tasks. Good moods don't necessarily lead to productivity but they are more likely to lead to problem-solving approaches, and creative-thinking.

Brain Strength Training

Part of why you get new ideas when on vacation is because your brain is literally changing and growing.

Scientists have confirmed that new sights, sounds, tastes and experiences increase neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s way of creating new connections and pathways for thinking. Being in a new environment increases neuroplasticity – and the more exotic or different than your everyday routine the better.

Career success depends on staying sharp and strategic. So if you’re idea of a fun vacation is to head to a faraway land that’s very different from your home, you’ll be doing some strength training for your brain that will provide a whole host of benefits you might not even notice but are definitely good for your soul and your brain.

Realign your Priorities

Often it’s when we take a step back that we really see clearly what’s important to us.

Summer 2016 in Michigan. #priorities

Summer 2016 in Michigan. #priorities

Has time with your family made you re-think how much you want to work in your next position?

Have you realized you have put your creative pursuits on the back burner for a long time and miss devoting time to them?

Is there an issue or topic you’re passionate about that you’ve thought about working on for a long time but haven’t made it happen yet?

For me, there’s nothing like sitting by a lake in an Adirondack chair with a glass of wine watching the sunset to make me think about what’s really important to me in my life.

Take note of what you’re thinking and what priorities are popping up for you while you’re on vacation. Better yet, think about one or two things you could do to make more time for those priorities when you return home.

I promise taking a week or two off this summer is going to actually help you excel in your current job or navigate a career pivot!

If you are looking to transition in your career and feel anxious about getting the process started, consider using a little bit of time every day or two on your next vacation for some structured reflections and exercises.

And you're in luck: We’re such proponents of combining thoughtful career reflection with travel that we’ve got five short worksheets you can download here to guide you over your vacation to start thinking about what’s next and what you need to do to get there. Each worksheet should take you 5-10 minutes. 

Imagine coming back from vacation energized about what comes next with the beginnings of an action plan for making your career pivot happen?