Vacation Benefits Impact Quality of Life

Job hunters think about salary, working conditions, and the work schedule. Those things affect everything in our lives. People also think about benefits. How much does medical insurance cost? Does the company offer life insurance? How long is it before a new employee is eligible for benefits? Vacation isn’t the highest priority on the job criteria list, especially when a person is unemployed. However, it often deserves more investigation.

Maybe you don’t expect four weeks of vacation, like you had on your previous job with ten years of seniority. However, you still need to ask about the PTO (personal time off) policy and the how the paid time off is handled. For example, you may not have worked for a company with a mandatory shutdown during holidays, summer, or semester breaks. You may also assume this won’t be a problem, and it might not be.

On the other hand, if the shutdown time uses up most of your discretionary time off and no one else in the family can take off during that time, you’ll be home alone using your time, without any hope of a family vacation later. It’s also possible that your family or spouse can’t travel during the time that is mandated.

Some school districts have a year around schedule that may not match mandated breaks. Be sure to check the school schedules too if you are moving for a job. Some companies assume everyone wants a holiday break. However, holiday travel is expensive, fraught with weather problems and illness, as well as being a time certain industries prohibit employees from taking vacation. Both ends of the spectrum come into these situations. You have to consider your family and your personal needs.

While the paycheck is vital, it’s not likely to make for a happy career if you have no hope of seeing your aging parents or taking a vacation with your spouse for several year.

Here’s a specific example. Company A borrows from the employees’ time to be sure they are paid during an annual shutdown. However, the employees aren’t allowed to carry time over. Therefore, the  employee is penalized by having virtually no time to use that’s discretionary until they’ve worked long enough to catch up, which may be several years. A clear explanation of the vacation policy and benefit is important. It’s easy to forget there are a variety of ways that other industries work.

Interviewing managers are accustomed to their company and don’t realize that you may be totally surprised by these policies. The interview focuses on skills and experience that fit the job. If you’re embarrassed to ask outright and the possibility of a job offer seems imminent, ask to look at a benefit packets to learn more about the company. Check online too. Many companies post a lot of benefit information, but holidays may not be included. However, be advised that that won’t always tell you the entire story.

There are companies that talk a good game and don’t live up to it too. You’ll read that they support flexible working arrangements, are family friendly, and offer exceptionally liberal vacation time. That’s fine unless you happen to be in the department that has a manager that has to have everyone on site everyday, and you need to juggle childcare with your spouse. Or, maybe you get the disorganized manager that keeps everyone working sixty-hours a week, and you just told your child that you’d coach the soccer team, or your elderly mother just moved in.

The best strategy is to ask outright. Very few managers are put off by someone asking to learn more about the company and wanting to be sure that this will be a good fit for both of you. Make it a positive statement and be excited about their company and the opportunity. You can consider the realities at home.

Job Loss, Dangerous To Your Health?

While the reasons that job loss can endanger your health vary and there’s controversy about the causes, the facts are indisputable. You need to take better care of yourself and work hard to stay in good shape when you are under stress,  regardless of the reason.

According to a recent blog post by Interns Over 40, a paper published last year by Kate W. Strully, a sociology professor at the State University of New York at Albany, states that people who lose a job experience 83 percent greater chance of suffering stress-related health problems. Such problems include diabetes, arthritis or psychiatric issues.

Job Loss Can It Kill You is an excellent article for employers and employees. Awareness and preventive actions are the first steps toward lessening the chance that a job loss will have unintended consequences. The site page is that hosts this article is rather a mess, but scroll down to the little guy with a thermometer in his mouth and you’ll find the article.

A Case for Eliminating Annual Reviews

An article in DVM360.com makes an excellent case for eliminating annual reviews. Author, Michael Riegger, presents excellent reasons for handling the entire process more immediately and more efficiently. One of the most important reasons to the businesses is that it saves money in the long run. It’s a no-brainer that more satisfied employees, better production, and less turnover save money. There’s nothing in Riegger’s article that doesn’t apply to any business in any industry.

This is an idea that’s time has come. Like a lot of  “we’ve always done it that way” or “we have to do it that way for … reasons”, there comes a time when change is beneficial and necessary. Employees in large companies often go their entire first year of employment without having any idea what their goals  are or how their performance is being measured, right up until they have their first review. How does this help the company or the employee?

Small businesses are often in a position to implement such changes more easily. In addition, small businesses feel improvements more quickly. Yes, it’s necessary to keep records and document counseling. However, it doesn’t take any longer to do it now than it does to write a note, file it, and try to figure it out months later, after the incorrect behavior becomes ingrained. Riegger’s idea is timely and right on.

Meanwhile, since this idea may not get widespread implementation in the near future, employees need to be encouraged to ask for feedback and take constructive criticism with an open mind.  Improving the working conditions benefits everyone. Therefore, encourage your employees to be an active  part of the team and take time to give carefully considered advice when you first notice a problem.

It’s time to nix employee reviews

Moving to find work

I answered a question on LinkedIn about nationwide job searches and moving to find work. That subject comes up regularly. Therefore, I’m posting the answer here with some minor edits.

In this market, you have to recognize that it’s not the employer’s problem that you live out-of-state. The company is likely to have plenty of good candidates. That said, it’s incumbent on the applicant to be available, flexible, and willing to make it work.

You need to do all of that without whining to the employer, who often has doubts about not hiring a local person anyway. Be prepared to be on the work site quickly, if you get the job. The logistics of moving is your problem. You aren’t being hired to be babysat, and it’s not up to the employer to make life convenient for you.

Does that sound harsh? Many people with solid experience, degrees, and good skills are lined up for jobs. Some of the best opportunities may not be local. One person I know got three offers out-of-state, but nothing local came through.

If you are unemployed, you have to decide whether having a paycheck, benefits, and a tight budget are better than being uninsured, on unemployment, or out of unemployment. Start thinking about the possibility of other locations as soon as you need to look for work. You’ll be in a better position to make it work if you don’t wait until your resources are exhausted.

Family matters are a personal issue. Some people can, and will, take a job and simply state that it’s a necessity. Others can’t deal with family pressure when there’s dissension. Know where you stand before you try to make a move this big. If you are asked how the family feels about the move, you probably can’t lie that well.

Always check the cost of living (COL) before looking for jobs in a new area. Can you really take a job at the same salary and move to an area with a 28% higher COL? Price cheap living options in a new job location. Do you have a camper? Check for small RV parks with cheap monthly rates, and look at studio apartments with utilities paid. Then, reduce your current budget to bare bones. Know where you stand. Also, be sure you are a person who can live on a shoe-string and maintain absolute control of the budget. Locate resources before the interview and be prepared to move quickly and make informed decisions.

Also, if a job offers relocation, be sure to ask what that means. A relocation of $7,500 may cover relocation for a single person with a small apartment, but it may not even cover the moving van–much less the incidentals–for a family with large home. Relocation no longer automatically means a full package deal. Remember, it might take a long time to sell a home too.

There are questions you need to answer before you make a commitment. Are you willing to live apart from the family for a year or more? Will the salary allow you to pay for travel home? Can you rent your home and manage the maintenance from a distance? Do you have friends or family who can act as property manager–without straining the relationship? Is the job in an area you want to live? Or, is your goal to be employed in your present hometown when the economy improves? Do you understand that once you take a job out of town it may be harder to get one in town again–especially in the near future? You’ll be in the same position–again, in reverse. Does your spouse have to work? Is he/she willing and able to relocate? These are just some of the key questions.

If you present yourself with confidence, the employer’s misgivings will be greatly reduced. The fact that you’ve done your research and have answers for his concerns further assures him/her of your ability to handle the changes. If you’ve been through successful relocation previously, be sure to point out those successes too.

The fellow with three offers out-of-state took one of those and ended up making more money than he did before he was laid off, even when there wasn’t a job to be found locally. It’s all a matter of what a person is willing to sacrifice to make it work. Any nationwide/international search requires planning, organization, and sacrifice. There will be unexpected changes and challenges.

You may need to pay for the interview travel costs yourself too. Don’t count on softening the employer on that. Don’t interview for anything you don’t really want either.

Think your company is doing OK?

Think you don’t need a current resume?

Don’t be surprised by a change in your job status. It’s smart in this economy to watch the market all the time, even if you feel safe.  Sign up for search engines to send a weekly email with local jobs in your field. Keep in touch with people in your network and make new contacts.

If you don’t want to make a move, at least be prepared. It’s smart. Just ask any Boy or Girl Scout. It’s even smarter in the present economy, because it takes much less change in the economy to tip a company the wrong way.

Here are three key tips:

1. Have a savings account. If that’s not possible, have a list of what you could sell quickly and easily if the worst happened.

2. Know your local resources. I’m not just talking about employers. Where are the church food banks? Clothing help for the kids for school clothes? Is there a pet food bank for dog food? Assess your needs and find the resources now. You won’t have weeks or months to search them out if you need them, and you don’t want those needs to interfere with your job search.

3. Set up job searches online now. Try different services and find out which ones pull the most in your field. Experiment. You can turn them off, or limit the updates once you find the best of the best. But, best of all, you won’t waste time going through all that when your next meal depends on finding a new employer. In the process, you may find the perfect job too.

Good luck.