I feel burnout syndrome on myself and I have also the feeling, a little bit of physical work could maybe help that. I think working some months in a job doing some physical with physical objects, for example, by moving packages on an airport, or packing bricks in a construction site, could maybe help me a lot. I would be also ready to do some dirty, for example handling animals in a farm, servicing elder/handicapped people, or anything. The important is that I need to work a little bit with material objects and not to solve software problems, and do something where achievement is directly visible on a daily basis rather than hidden inside a box and longer-term.

My core question is, how to get a short-term "hands rather than mind" while I would avoid the faceloss in the eyes of my social environment (family, friends, AND job market). I am also concerned that some of these jobs may require their own kind of training (safety classes, for example), and I really want to dive in immediately to start releasing my accumulated stress.

How can I organize this career break, and not lose face?

(For context: I am currently in Germany, but not in one of its bigger cities (NRW [North Rhein and Westphalien], Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt, Hamburg or Stuttgart), originally from a smaller country from the unluckier side of the old European iron curtain. I'm reasonably fluent in, and using every day, German, English, and my native language.)

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Jane S May 7 '16 at 7:37

Just get an unskilled labouring job, moving furniture or something like that. People come and go at these jobs, some last a day, some last a year, no one cares. You'll get some exercise anyway. Farming work may not be for you, it's rough and tumble and to be good at it you need to be pretty hard to start with, and it takes a lot more skill to work with animals than you may think. But it's great in terms of full immersion in a totally new environment with no time or energy to think about where you were if you even care.

The most mindless physical work I can think of is planting pine, but it's definitely physical, and the money is good (I used to make more money when I was planting, than I did as a qualified senior network engineer) and there is always a demand for planters anywhere there is forestry.

Unfortunately, degrees and diplomas are not the whole World, many physical type jobs which look easy actually require quite an in depth knowledge to do properly, you will be looked down on if you go in soft. Most farm jobs require multiple skills, forestry the same. Your best bet is full on labouring in a town where it's something simple. Not out in the country.

You will find though that people are people, wherever they work, you get good people, you get bad, and you get psychos. The only real difference in the physical workers, is that they don't play as many mind games, mainly because things get settled with fists pretty quickly, secondly many of them don't have much of a mind.

So if it's short term only, then go for casual labouring in a town. If you really want a total change then go out into the country. You get a whole new perspective on life, priorities, and yourself when you spend most of your time working outdoors. Well away from conveniences like shops and toilets.

Casual labour jobs are easy to find, you can normally find them advertised or at the local unemployment place they'll be posted, universities, shop windows etc,. Farming jobs tend to be advertised out of the cities. Unskilled forestry jobs usually at the labour offices or small towns as well, anywhere near forests really. The last two you often live on site.

  • I did it for years, good for your health, good for your mind, boosts your self confidence, you'd be surprised how many well educated people are hiding out there, good luck – Kilisi May 6 '16 at 3:50
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    Although the answer is excellent, I see nothing that answers the secondary concern of the OP about "losing face". I think the key to avoiding that is probably to show clearly that you're happy doing what might be considered "simple work". You'll still get some raised eyebrows but if you're clearly feeling better about yourself, those who truly care about your well-being should be supportive. – Cronax May 6 '16 at 13:21
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    @Cronax There is no loss of face, I'm a school dropkick so half my working life was that sort of work. People viewed it as a little bit different from the normal path and reserved judgement until I had proven myself, but that's it. I actually brought skills to the office that no one else had, so I was very soon seen as an asset. – Kilisi May 6 '16 at 21:03

The saving face thing is easily solved. Call it vacation or leave of absence or community service time. It doesn't have to go onto your resume -- though many employers, at least in the countries I know, like to see that employees are "giving back" to their communities, so volunteering might be something to be proud of rather than hide. Family doesn't have to know details unless you want to tell them. Friends will understand, or they aren't friends.

You are creating most of your own challenges. Let go of them and just do it.

Suggestion: If all you are looking for is a change to give you time to reset yourself, consider volunteering rather than looking for a paid job. Nobody will consider that a loss of face; if anything it improves your reputation. It doesn't even have to be full-time to give you the breathing space you need, so you could consider going back to work while continuing to volunteer outside your profession

  • Thank you, it is also a good idea, but unfortunately as I can see, there is a nearly psychotic oversubscription here on the field I would really like (animal saving). Yes, the foundations have high expectations (f.e. at least started education in the area or so) from the volunteers who need to apply them regularly as if it would be a paid job. I find this laughing. – Gray Sheep May 6 '16 at 3:43
  • Anyways it is also a good idea, but I think I need a regular, full-time, paid job. Not the money which is important, but that I need to do that as my normal job. I must expel the bad feelings which I collected in the last decades of my paid, full-time jobs. – Gray Sheep May 6 '16 at 3:46
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    Are you going to find a paid job doing animal rescue? Demanding a perfect solution will keep you from considering good ones. You asked for physical labor; Habitat for Humanity would give you plenty of that, as would many other organizations. And they'd be glad to work you full-time, if that's what you want. – keshlam May 6 '16 at 6:04
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    I did this exact thing. I was feeling pretty burned out from software development, and headed out to Mexico to spend 6 months doing marine conservation. – Dark Hippo May 6 '16 at 14:25
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    @MorningStar I used to work in my families restaurant washing dishes when I was younger while I already had an office day job. That kind of thing is very relaxing, physical and does not require you to think a lot. You can volunteer at a Tafel or another homless/poor-people shelter like Rotes Kreuz that provides hot meals for people in need. That way you get the giving back part and do a job that can give physical stress that lasts until the job is done and no further. Taking a few months sabbatical or unbezahlten Urlaub to do that should be viewed positive in Germany from my experience – simbabque Jun 10 '16 at 13:34

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