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A person at the beach, standing by the edge of the water.

Many of us are drawn to social-impact work because we care deeply about the mission and making a difference. This type of motivation can provide a great sense of fulfillment, but it can also leave you feeling a little guilty when you need a break.

The irony is that social-impact professionals may need a vacation even more than others because of “compassion fatigue,”a form of burnout that comes from working every day to meet the needs of others, whether through direct service or through other kinds of mission-driven work.

Here are four reasons to take that summer vacation you've been considering, or to remind yourself why the one you already have planned is still a good idea.

It can make you more productive

Your first instinct may be to say you can’t take a vacation because you have too much to do. But trying to push through a never-ending to-do list with the accompanying feelings of burnout and exhaustion can make you less productive, not more. Research has found that a break may be exactly what you need.

For example, relaxing (as one often does on vacation) can improve your focus and reduce stress, both of which factor into your productivity. Also, being exposed to new and different experiences can boost your creativity, which can be particularly valuable if you work in a field such as communications, marketing, design, or teaching where coming up with creative ideas is part of your job.

It can boost your job search

The same benefits that kick your productivity into high gear can also boost your job search. Job searching is a stressful experience, and most of us require an occasional release valve to keep us motivated and focused.

Vacation can be that release—and it doesn’t need to be a long, expensive trip. For relaxing on a budget, try a day hike or a camping trip, exploring a new city, a quick road trip, or checking for discounts at a local spa.

Vacation can also give you time to reflect. Amid all the resumes, cover letters, and job descriptions involved in the job search, it can be easy to lose track of what’s important to you. Is it the mission of the organization? Room for growth? Flexible scheduling, or the ability to work remotely? Time away can offer the uninterrupted reflection time you need to remember what’s important to you.

Worried about missing a message from a hiring manager while you’re away? Try one of these tips:

  • Set up an auto-response on your email to let people know when you’ll be responding to messages again. Same goes for your voicemail greeting. This is an easy way to let a hiring manager know why you haven’t responded right away.
  • Plan to check your email once a day to make sure you don’t miss any important messages. If you’re in the middle of an interview process, you can tell the hiring manager when you’ll be out of town and whether you’ll be reachable. But don’t do this if you just applied for a job and haven’t gotten an interview yet; that can come off as presumptuous.

Pro Tip: Some phones will let you create notifications for emails with specific words in the subject line or from specific senders.

It can be a way to give back

Just because you’re taking a vacation doesn’t mean you have to stop making an impact. For some people, volunteering during vacation is even more energizing and reinvigorating than hanging out at the beach.

If you’ve been feeling like your day job is a few steps removed from the impact of your greater organization, volunteering during your time off could be exactly what you need. Consider:

  • Volunteering in your pajamas. It’s true: You can volunteer without leaving your couch! Search for remote volunteering opportunities on, or reach out directly to organizations you’re interested in and ask if they have any virtual opportunities.
  • Volunteering abroad. Some organizations offer international volunteer opportunities for one week or less. Before you go, research the organization to make sure you’ll be making a sustainable difference instead of engaging in harmful or counterproductive “voluntourism.”
  • Completing volunteer training for a future opportunity. Many organizations require volunteers to undergo advance training, and depending on the availability of these trainings, it can be hard to participate. By completing the training on your vacation, you’ll be all set to volunteer once you return to work.

You've earned it!

If you still feel the guilt creeping in, remember one thing: You’ve earned this vacation (perhaps literally, if you’ve accrued paid vacation time).

Everyone deserves and needs time off. It doesn’t make you bad at your job or less committed to the mission or to the organization; it just makes you human.

So, bon voyage, whether you’re jet-setting or just sitting! Cheers to a restful and reinvigorating summer vacation.

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Deborah Swerdlow profile image

Deborah Swerdlow

As a nonprofit advocacy professional living in Washington, D.C., Deborah works with groups across the country to educate their communities and lawmakers about public policies that can help low-income residents make ends meet. She is passionate about helping people connect their interests to a cause they believe in and empowering them to take action.

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