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.