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 how the paid time off is handled. For example, you may not have worked for a company with mandatory shutdown during holidays, summer, or semester breaks. You may also assume this won’t be a problem, and it might not.

On the other hand, if the shutdown 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 your family or spouse can’t travel during the time off that is mandated for you.

Some school districts have a year around schedule that also 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.

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 often 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 who demands everyone be on site everyday, and you need to juggle childcare with your spouse. Or, maybe you get the disorganized manager who keeps everyone working sixty-hours a week, and you just told your child 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 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.

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 a really tight job market, you have to recognize that it’s not the employer’s problem 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 if he/she applies to jobs beyond the local area.

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 a 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.

What job is best for students?

The Wall Street Journal ran an excellent article for students and parents. If you are helping a student find work or if you are a student seeking work, read this article. Things have changed, and the rules and ideas most parents grew up with no longer apply. You’ll come away with a new perspective and an better understanding of the market for underage workers.

Students, if you parents don’t get it, take a look at this article. It may help you validate your opinions when you talk to your parents. If they don’t think it’s still valid, check the employment statistics for people 18-30. In 2014, only 54% of the people in that age range were able to find work.

When You’re Unemployed and Underage

Resumes for Students

Students, and parents, need to get past the idea that it’s still easy for kids to get a quick summer job at McDonald’s or run around the neighborhood mowing lawns. Times have changed.

Labor laws are so cumbersome and difficult to monitor that some businesses simply don’t hire kids under eighteen anymore. Neighbors don’t want the liability of kids working around their homes with or without power equipment, and they don’t want to give access to anyone when they aren’t home. This isn’t without merit. Home owner’s insurance might not cover them if they get hurt. That’s a lot of risk. Where does this leave kids who want and/or need to work?

First, you–the student–must accept the fact you have a great deal of competition. Your competition may be willing to cut their hair, wear a tie, and work on weekends, even when it means missing a great party. The nature of the working world is that employers call the shots. There are more workers than jobs. Even adults with many years of experience and advanced degrees are working longer hours for less money. If you want to work, you have to be willing to do what’s asked regarding appearance and job duties. You’ll also need to accept the fact you won’t start out making what you think you deserve.

Second, you need a good resume that points out what you have to offer. Resumes for students create a challenge, but it’s possible to develop a resume at any age. Include clubs and student activities, special awards, short-term jobs, volunteer projects, special interests or summer workshops. All of these things help build a profile of a person an employer wants to hire when you look for your first job.

Third, talk to adults you know about providing references. Tell people you know that you are looking for a job. Ask for references from anyone you’ve worked for, or with, who can testify about your ability, skills, and responsible behavior. If you can’t think of anyone, volunteer for a project at a church or school. You will need a reference or two that aren’t family. It is a bit of a dilemma, but you can find ways to build references.

Send in your questions. If you have questions, other kids do too.

Interview Tips for Older Workers

Today, I’m adding a couple of quick interview tips to help you get through that rough re-enty when you’ve been out of the job market.

Interview Tips

Older workers, who are going back to work, may not know that many interview questions that used to be routine are now illegal. This also applies to job applicants of any age. Don’t volunteer information about family, age, or health.

If those questions come up, it can be awkward because you know you probably won’t get the job if you tell the interviewer his questions are illegal. There are several ways to handle it. You may nicely respond that you prefer not to discuss information that’s unrelated to the job. If you are not comfortable doing that, use a friendly, positive tone and say, “I’m sure I won’t have any problem meeting your expectations”, or “I’m totally prepared to devote my time to my job.” Above all, don’t volunteer information on these topics.

Resume Distribution Services

Don’t blast resumes to hundreds of companies that may not have an opening for someone with your skills. I’m sure there may be a success story someplace from someone doing that, but there are a lot more failures. The automated screening systems accept specific types of documents and formats, along with information completed by the applicant or someone acting on their behalf. Any system or service offering to distribute your resume for a low cost is not investing the time to complete individual applications. They don’t even care whether your resume gets to the companies. This type of thing seems to be dead. Still, sometimes old scams resurface. Don’t fall for it.

Posting Your Resume Online

If you want to post your resume on Indeed or Monster, that’s fine. Just be sure you take care to be sure you set all the privacy controls. It’s dangerous to have too much personal information visible. It’s not only a safety risk, it’s a risk for identity theft. Proceed with caution or get help from someone who knows how to manage those postings.