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I want to quit my job and travel — will it affect my career progression?

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This week’s problem

I work in product development for a global asset manager but want to leave my firm and travel. Should I take a leap of faith and leave my job, travel for a year, maybe get a contract role in another country and then come back to London? Or could this be too risky and result in years of making up for it? Female, 20s

Jonathan’s answer

Your career has had a strong start but now you yearn for a different experience; however, you’re balancing this with the concern for your long-term career and that you won’t be able to “make up for” the year away.

Perhaps these concerns are misplaced. Katy Brown, who recently co-founded two start-ups after 10 years in investment management, suggests you put the decision in the broader context of a (potentially) 45-year career. “Ten years ago, in my 20s, I felt I had to make every minute of every day count. But don’t be in such a rush to climb the ladder,” she says.

There are many routes up the career mountain; if you look around at what people further up the path have done, you will see an inspiring variety of experiences, and not all staying in the industry and in London. If you plan now for how you will re-enter the market (assuming you will want to after a year away), then you can set off with confidence and purpose.

Karis Stander, managing director of Investment20/20, which provides training and entry-level routes into investment management, was very clear on whether you should go: “Emphatically, yes!”

“If you have a burning desire then it’s really important to focus on your own wellbeing, and not deny yourself what you want to do,” she adds. Stander agreed with Brown that there’s no one right path, and both highlighted that global experiences can only bolster your CV, give you a broader perspective, and expose you to developing many transferable skills such as problem solving, planning and communication.

In the time before you leave, Stander advises that you future proof your career so that your re-entry to the labour market is easier. As you are currently inside the investment management industry, you are well placed to talk to colleagues, gather information, ask for feedback on your strengths and development needs, and identify the sort of role you would like next. “For example, many people seek line management positions,” Stander says. “How could you build those skills before and during your travels?”

You have other options than just resigning: would your line manager hold your post open? Could you go on a secondment in another country? Stander recommends “getting involved in being an active participant in the firm’s networks — understand the skill shortages, build connections, and join any talent programmes”.

However, don’t underestimate the benefits of the experiences you will get on your travels, for yourself and your career. Bon voyage!

Readers’ advice

I would suggest your year “travelling” should have a purpose, such as language acquisition. Also be prepared to never want to go back home. Le maquisard

Educational travel will act like an extra qualification. A few years ago, I did one of the round-the-world yacht races. Of the 50 or so who did the whole thing, 45 of us had been headhunted or promoted by the time we came back. The experience showed team building, grit and the ability to problem solve in moments of stress, and so much more. Tazzyjoolz

Jonathan Black is director of the Careers Service at the University of Oxford. Every fortnight he answers your questions on personal and career development and working life. Do you have a question for him? Email: dear.jonathan@ft.com

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