banner image

Post-Holiday Blues or Mid-Career Crisis – Recognising The Signs

With the world of work ever increasing in its demands for maximum professional efficacy today,  finding ample time to disconnect from one’s work life and embrace the moments that allow us to stay committed to our personal needs as we are to career aspirations has become increasingly difficult.

As we strive for balance between professional demands and personal well-being, navigating the digital age’s relentless ‘grind culture’ continues to present its own set of challenges. The allure of constant connectivity, fuelled by productivity apps and remote work arrangements, often makes it difficult to truly switch off, and this is particularly true during holidays or extended breaks from work.

Much is written about how to stay disconnected while on holiday due to this – not least as the pandemic is cited as kick-starting  this hustle mentality. And, whilst Physicians and academics alike have rightly focused on practices that can help holidaymakers work through their stress, and focus on the impact of burnout – inevitably, this downtime may in fact focus your attention on your more general career path, future goals and aspirations, and whether these are on track.

In fact, it was found from a survey conducted on behalf of Hotel Indigo by YouGov that the majority of global travellers (63%) end up making major life decisions after travelling, including (figuratively and literally) career-changing ones.  

 Whilst a case of post-holiday blues is a common occurrence when returning from a holiday – especially if such quality time with friends and family is a rare commodity – it becomes tricky, when career comes into the picture, to tell the difference between a standard case of short-term sadness and a real need to refocus and reassess one’s legal career. 


A Temporary Slump?

If you find that your reservations about returning to work stem from a desire to enjoy the fun and freedom the holiday brought for a little longer, then chances are your post-holiday blues are just that. They aren’t exclusive to holiday periods either – as it is also a common thing to experience during the festive season and after any long break from work. Temporary, short-lived, and incredibly common, they have only become a more intriguing phenomenon over time, with a 100% increase in searches for how to beat the post-holiday blues evident over the past 12 months.  

The good news though, is that if all is well behind the scenes at the office, this sense of foreboding will disappear given enough time. 

If, however, you remain unsure of where your heart really lies, there are always worthwhile steps to take periodically in your career to assess if you are still on the right track – and doing so after a holiday or extended break, can certainly help to assess where things stand:  


Setting Achievable Goals  

A good starting point is to begin setting actionable and achievable targets as part of your preparation for your return to work. The point of this exercise is to get the ball rolling mentally (and potentially physically) towards your present goals, and make that transition back to your work life easier with a clearer path of progression. In this regard, a timely review of your career plan and where you were heading goal-wise before the holidays can prove to be a great aid.

If for example, a promotion was possibly on the cards or even a worthwhile pursuit, then begin mapping out a step-by-step plan of how you intend to show your employers you are the candidate to consider. Not only does this give a sense of empowerment and renewed resolve that makes returning into the thick of it easier, but it also keeps any negative or unhelpful post-holiday-borne thoughts at bay.   

It should also be said on this note that working out where you are and where you are heading in your legal career isn’t just something to do when you’re fresh out of college or upon qualification. The best industry leaders regularly conduct this sense-check of their business objectives and strategies based on changing priorities, constant evaluations of the marketplace, and a growing understanding of their sector.  

The economic and socio-political backdrop may also influence career planning, as well as other more-permanent ‘trends’ such as a seismic shift towards flexible, home, and remote working patterns that have meant people are reassessing how (and where) they work too. Finding time (whether that’s on your holiday or when you’re back at your desk) is vital to put a stake in the ground and take stock of the real reasons why you may be feeling discontentment. 


A Mental Reset

One of the hardest things about accepting the inevitable when returning to work from a holiday is what exactly you dread returning to, and this is sometimes what people mean when they say it is difficult to snap out of the constant reminiscing about their time off. A busy inbox, a diary full of meetings, and case files or projects to pick back up and run with as part of a busy law firm is not exactly the ‘welcome back’ one would appreciate upon their return – hence why the reluctance to carry on with work life is so much stronger than what you’d usually expect.   

 A good way to get around this issue is to focus on what you enjoy about your job instead. These may be the more technical or social aspects of the role or even the banter that takes place between you and your colleagues around the office. Whatever it may be, it can help to temper any rising fears about the workload you are expecting to come back to. 

 If said fears however stem from a real overload of work, and are not outside the norm of what you consider a usual day on the job, then begin looking at how you can cut down on your work hours or workload, and talk it out with a sit-down with your manager. It is important that you do not procrastinate on this step or write it off as unrealistic due to the expectations placed on you within your role – a lack of work-life balance will often manifest itself as a deep sense of dread as your return date approaches and should be treated as a matter of priority. 


Preparing For Your Return 

Where possible, a ‘buffer day’ in between your holiday ending and the next working day is a sound technique to catch up on emails, get a sense of what the week ahead is likely to entail, and to manage your diary effectively before you hit the office or turn your laptop on.  

Create a to-do list and prioritise tasks based on urgency and importance. This will help you focus on what needs to be done first and prevent feeling overwhelmed.  

Even creating a little time to physically unpack, rest, and mentally prepare for the return to the office can help during this transition and (hopefully) get you back on track. 


Just the Holiday Blues?…Or Something Deeper? 

 As the holiday ends and work looms, it’s natural to feel drained and apprehensive. But these feelings don’t necessarily signify dissatisfaction with one’s job. Holidays and time away offer a break from work stress, and readjusting to reality after such freedom can be tough for anyone. However, such feelings tend to fade with time and if any dissatisfaction with your work or job continues to persist, then it may signal deeper issues that are at play. If you find yourself consistently unhappy at the thought of returning to work, despite exhausting the strategies outlined above, then ask yourself the following question: 

 Are your concerns connected to your holiday at all – or is the unhappiness connected to the job itself? 

 As the question above implies, if your real problem with returning to work stems from struggles you often face within the workplace, whether that be a difficult manager, a lack of fulfilment, or certain tasks you dread having to do then a change of scenery is due – professionally speaking of course. While there are certainly less-than-desirable aspects of our jobs we all have to tolerate to some degree, none should lead to a brewing sense of dread at the thought of coming back to work. 

 Another good way to discern if this kind of change is what you really need is to look at what your career plan review has revealed about your ambitions, progress and satisfaction with work-life overall. Remember why you chose the role in the first place and whether reality is currently matching up with expectations when it comes to getting closer to your career goals. It will direct your attention towards the questions that matter most regarding your work life: 

  • Do you have a good working relationship with your colleagues and managers? 
  • Do you fit in with your company’s culture?
  • Is your remuneration and benefits package where it needs to be (and fair for your work and achievements)? 

If the answers to the above are a resounding ‘no’, then it’s a sign some big career decisions are going to have to be made. 


Time For A Career Change? 

If after giving it a good deal of thought, you find that post-holiday blues really aren’t the cause of your reluctance to return to the office, then you have some options on the table. The first is to have a sit-down with your manager regarding what can be done to improve the quality of your work life, whether that be by adjusting working hours, introducing some degree of flexibility into your role or reducing workload. 

If you can’t see a way to improve your working life, or if you are hitting the proverbial dead end when raising any issues or concerns with your current employer, seeking a new role may be the viable option to ensure your career path stays on track 

 The first step, of course, is to decide whether to go it alone and spend time researching opportunities in the market, your region, and your practice area and apply to vacancies advertised. 

 The alternative is to enlist the help of a reputable legal recruitment specialist who will search the market on your behalf, and present you with (often exclusive) roles that are designed to be the absolute best ‘fit’ for you and your requirements from your next employer. 


In Conclusion 

 Getting the work-life balance right is key to general happiness and satisfaction both in your role as a legal professional, and as an individual. Holidays – or more specifically, time away from work plays a huge part in this for both your mental and physical health, and finding time to switch off completely from the day job will only help you be more focused upon your return. 

 Taking time off from work can give you the space you need to learn about yourself, your passions, your interests, and your career – however much you are adamant that the complete switch-off will be just that. And should the holiday blues take hold at any point in the year after a lengthy break, recognising when it is what it looks like and when it may be something more is key. 


About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 5,000 placements from partners to legal executives, solicitors to paralegals and legal IT personnel to practice managers.

If you are returning from holiday and dreading the working week ahead, or more generally need a new challenge or opportunity, we can help. Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.

Share This Post

Posted By

Laura Lissett

Marketing Consultant