I miss recess
July 26, 2009 2:29 PM   Subscribe

I'm fresh out of college, I have a job I love, and everything's going great. But it would be awesome if I could have more time off, because of a few reasons, and I can afford it... but does anyone do that?

I'm making 'A' a month and spending almost a thousand bucks less than that paycheck. As odd as it is, at this point I could afford to support myself for a few months, maybe a year even, with savings, since I rarely spend and always work.

Everything's great, except I'm in a long-distance relationship (about 100 mile distance, with bus/car/train transportation in between) with an amazing girl who is leaving the country for three months, and then going to be in school for a year. So, going down for weekends is great, and I will do that as much as humanly possible, but I'd like weeks. I get 15 days of vacation time (how does that compare to other jobs in the web-field?), which I'm going to split between a few days before and a week or two during her trip to the other side of the world, in which I'm going to fly there too.

So, my situation is: I'd like to just say, could I take, say, another 10 days off of work, unpaid? I know this is a personal thing, but I'm wondering if it's so nonstandard and possibly annoying for the company that I shouldn't even bring it up? Has anyone does this and how does it work out?

More time would be so great, if I could take off fall/spring break or something, that would be so incredibly golden, and seriously, I could do it financially.

I guess this is related to the question 'why don't people work less when they earn more?,' which I also wonder about...
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (32 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know about working unpaid, but a lot of jobs will let you work overtime that is converted into time off later (commonly known as "comp time"). For example, you could work two sixty-hours weeks, then take a third week off. Ask around at your job and see if there is such a program there.
posted by jgunsch at 2:34 PM on July 26, 2009

It definitely depends on where you work, but unless your employer is looking to cut back already, it doesn't sound likely. Who will do your job while you're gone? Either they'll have to hire someone else or ask your coworkers to take up the burden. Unfortunately, if you're in a career oriented job, a lot of people will take this to mean you're not "serious" about your career, which will hurt you in getting promotions, if that's something you're looking for down the road.
posted by bluejayk at 2:40 PM on July 26, 2009

15 days of vacation seems very generous for a first job out of college.

Keep in mind that whenever you're not working, someone has to pick up the slack and that taking 25 days off in your first year with a company will not endear you to your coworkers or boss.

I like jgunsch's idea of using comp time. I did exactly that when I was in a long-distance relationship.

Also, check to find out when your vacation time kicks in--I've had jobs where you had to be working for the company for a year before you got any paid time off. Sometimes it isn't particularly clear.
posted by corey flood at 2:43 PM on July 26, 2009

I think you're making a mistake chasing this girl. Let her go. Concentrate on your career. Make some good money. The girls will chase you.
posted by Faze at 2:51 PM on July 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

I had to take time off of work unpaid, but it was related to taking time through the Family Medical Leave Act so I could help my Mom recover from surgical complications. When I returned to work, I had maxed out all my time, except for some vacation time that was set aside for a long-planned trip. When I needed to take a sick day (which was rare, I dragged myself in sick a lot that year), I had to take no pay days. They didn't seem to mind, as long as I was doing my job. In terms of how it was handled, I just needed to tell them I was taking an unpaid day. I don't know how complicated the paperwork was on their end, but it didn't seem like it was a huge hassle.

15 days of vacation time is standard for most professionals in the beginning stages of their careers. At my company (not a web company), support staff types top out at 20 days a year, the extra 5 being granted once they've been there 5 years. I understand your reasons, but it may not be the best idea to take that amount of time off from a job you love in this economic climate. For you to take an extra 2 weeks, means they are without you for 5 weeks instead of 3. I don't know how that would impact your personal work flow or the company's progress on certain projects, but I don't think most employers would be happy to give you up for 10 extra days, especially when it's not for a major life event like a honeymoon, caring for a sick relative, etc. It may be worth investigating, but I would proceed cautiously since you seem so happy with your work situation.
posted by katemcd at 2:53 PM on July 26, 2009

Something that may be a reasonable compromise as well for your weekends is compressing your work week into Mon-Thurs and taking 3-day weekends every time you visit her.

Comp time can work well, but if your work is time sensitive, it may be that you're not putting in the hours when your company wants them done. It's fine to build up a week in lieu (I once had a job where I accumulated an average of about 4 additional vacation weeks a year), but they still need to be able to spare you when you want to go.

This is really going to depend on your company, but I second looking around to see what others are doing, and what their financial situation is. I know around where I live, employers are getting more and more flexible about these sorts of things.
posted by scrute at 2:57 PM on July 26, 2009

Clarification: I meant the company's financial situation, not you co-workers :-)
posted by scrute at 2:58 PM on July 26, 2009

Some companies will let you go in the negative on your vacation hours up to a certain point. You'd probably have to ask your boss for approval though.

The annoyance factor of taking lots of time off goes down if:

a) there is not any pressing deadline.
b) someone doesn't have to cover for you while you're out.
c) you are not a person everyone goes to first for some subject.

If possible, you can squeeze a few more days off by combining your vacation days with paid holidays, especially if you get the Monday before a Tuesday holiday off and the Friday after a Thursday holiday off. This works best when Christmas and New Year's Day fall on a Tuesday or Thursday.

So much depends on your company's culture. Pay attention to what others are doing. If you have a coworker you can trust with more years at the company, ask his or her take.
posted by mathlete at 3:09 PM on July 26, 2009

I guess this is related to the question 'why don't people work less when they earn more?,' which I also wonder about...

If you would run your own company, do you think it would benefit that company if your top employees worked as little as they possibly could?
posted by effbot at 3:14 PM on July 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

It would help quite a bit if we knew what sort of job you're doing, who does that job if you're not around (if anyone), and what sort of expertise you need to do your job. Telecommuting options are also important. If you do something that could be done anywhere as long as X finished document shows up on Mr. Boss' desk on Monday, you may be able to "work from home" (or, in this case, the girlfriend's apartment) every Friday.
posted by craven_morhead at 3:36 PM on July 26, 2009

This absolutely depends on your company - and only you can gauge this. At my old job I had it written into my contract that I could take an additional 20 days (so, 4 weeks) off per year, unpaid. The actual time off had to be arranged with good notice and never interfered with any busy times/big deadlines at the office.

I know more than one lawyer who works only 9 months per year, and is paid a lesser salary over 12 months - but these are really easy going firms.

In all of these cases, we are not fresh out of college, have good communication with our superiors, work in fields where this time off is possible and good enough at our jobs that the companies want to keep us on with this arrangement. Lots of variables to consider.
posted by meerkatty at 3:38 PM on July 26, 2009

Nine day working fortnights are extremely common here, but they only work in certain types of jobs.

One US-based company I worked for allowed staff to "purchase" extra leave - you basically traded a week's salary of your base pay rate for each extra week of leave you wanted. You might want to check whether your employer offers this.

If you're brand new in the job and you didn't mention wanting additional leave during the interviewing process, your requests mightn't go down too well. Wanting to change something you've only recently agreed to could paint a target on your back.
posted by Lolie at 3:43 PM on July 26, 2009

Be VERY wary of taking more time off in this economic climate. 15 days of vacation time is generous for a first job out of college. And given the economy right now, you could do all the right things to get comp time or have a manager go to bat for you for unpaid leave, but if there's a financial crisis in your company you'll be seen as the person for whom long vacations were more important than the company's business. You'll be the guy who's gone, not the one who's front and center, even if you're the better worker, and it's easy to let go the guy who's gone already.

This is also why people freelance, or work contract, and sacrifice benefits and stability on the altar of free time. (I'm one of them.) Welcome to the tradeoffs of life after college.

What about using some of your savings to fly your girlfriend to see you? It seems that she'll have more time off than you will, given the usual school holiday breaks.
posted by mdiskin at 3:50 PM on July 26, 2009 [2 favorites]

If I am your boss, and I'm not, I would ask the questions, "If you can take 10 days off unpaid, why do we need you in the first place.?" "Are we paying you to do something that can be done in less time or spread out over several people?" Or, if my company needed to save money, giving you a ten day furlough might make sense.

As a wise old man in his 40's living the american dream of a wife, 3 kids and a large mortgage in the suburbs, I can add that I both wish I had taken more time off when I was younger AND that I wish I had saved some of the money I spent on myself having fun. Take those extra $1,000s you are making and invest it for retirement now and you will really appreciate it down the line like 20-30 years down the line. Tough to grasp now, but you should at least try. Also, travel is such a terrific "luxury" at some point in your life when you have so many obligations and commitments that doing some now would be great. Now that I have talked out of both sides of my mouth, I wish you good luck.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 3:57 PM on July 26, 2009

Quit your job. Move to China or wherever with your girl.

You're apparently smart enough that you're pretty thoroughly overemployed. You're probably smart enough to work out a way to live your life as you'd like to.
posted by cmoj at 4:03 PM on July 26, 2009 [3 favorites]

Totally depends where you work. And your boss. I know lots of people in their twenties who take off unpaid time, definitely more than 2 weeks a year. But if its a corporate type workplace where no one else is doing this, then I'm not sure, since most of my peers freelance/odd job/work in schools/ or quit when they realize they really can't take more than two weeks. I've found most of my jobs I've had are way more negotiable with time off than I first thought, or maybe this is just my attitude towards work- I'm not inclined to jobs that aren't negotiable. Then again, if you want to be there a long time, I guess it could be better to feel it out for awhile.
posted by Rocket26 at 4:19 PM on July 26, 2009

Welcome to adulthood, population: you. One thing about being an adult with adult responsibilities is that you don't just get to do whatever you feel like doing whenever you feel like doing it. If you've got a good job right out of college I would strongly advise you not to jeopardize that by acting irresponsibly so soon after beginning your job.
posted by Justinian at 4:21 PM on July 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

I know this is a personal thing, but I'm wondering if it's so nonstandard and possibly annoying for the company that I shouldn't even bring it up?

I wouldn't say it's non-standard, but I would talk about it in very hypothetical terms with employees who've been there longer to get a feel for the company culture about this. It's way better, in my opinion, to ask and know for sure, than speculate and make a rash choice (like not showing up to work for a few weeks!) which would make you despised among your colleagues. A question like "how does unpaid leave work here?" is a pretty vague, non-committal question that could "come up" for a newbie at any company, and if it's at all unclear, I think their answer wouldn't be "none, ever!", and then someone asking you to clean out your desk, you slacker.

Once you've got your answer, I think the best way to frame it would be to first, confirm dates and times for your friend's travel - perhaps you could meet up with them abroad or at their school, or perhaps for some sort of event somewhere. Arrange the vacation days you have around that, and while doing so, ask how possible it would be to add additional days to the time you'd be gone on the already-scheduled thing. If you can't get extra time off, though, use the money you make to get your girlfriend to you, or increase the level of how good your time together is. A five-day weekend spent watching movies on her couch is way less exciting than a five-day trip to Puerto Rico or something.

I'd also say that your coworkers, who may not be in such happy financial straits as you, may resent your "extra" time off if you don't support them 110% before you go. Make sure any loose ends you need to tie up are done, don't lord your vacation over the office, and be sure to bring them something back if you go somewhere cool - a couple snacks in the break room can go a long way.

Lastly - confirm your time off as early as possible, so that as new commitments arise, you aren't left looking like you're avoiding them. A vacation "all booked and paid for" six months in advance is a much harder thing to be asked to cancel than a "possible trip to see my girlfriend this weekend". Be firm, be early, and don't back down, but do be in contact if you need to be.
posted by mdonley at 4:37 PM on July 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

@Faze: I'm not sure what he should do about this, but that advice is the opposite of anything I've ever believed or ever want to believe. Giving up a girl for money and then shooting for girls who are attracted to money seems like an easy route to losing all hope in the world.
posted by tmcw at 5:35 PM on July 26, 2009 [3 favorites]

you're an idiot if you go up to your boss and ask for more time off. you're in your first job after college, in a recession, and you get 15 days off (that's a LOT, 10 more than standard in my field).

asking for more vacation time, paid or unpaid, will show your boss you're not committed to your job/career. and in this economy, you want to show the exact opposite.

as to why people don't work less? shitty american work ethic brought about by the need to keep up with the jones because "things" matter more than "healty" and "happiness" and "spending time with loved ones".
posted by misanthropicsarah at 6:23 PM on July 26, 2009

Hello sir, this is the real world!

You don't get recess, it's not like college where you can blow off classes to go gallivant about, it has vacation time and expectations that you won't be vacationing right after starting your job.

If you had an hourly job like waitering or working as a barista it's a bit easier to take that extra time off as your managers pretty much count on their employees being massive flakes. You know, the type of jobs that are normally populated by young people in college. If your job is not this type of job--and I'm guessing it is not that type of job--you do not have that luxury. It's going to be very dependent on your field but I'm betting that this would not even be a good subject to broach given how new you are, unless you are some kind of magic wunderkind.
posted by schroedinger at 7:03 PM on July 26, 2009

In the circles I move in it's pretty rare to have a job you love. And honestly, everywhere I have worked (since my bartending days), rightly or wrongly the bosses would view such a request from someone in their first year with the firm as being indicative of poor work ethic and limited commitment to the firm going forward; my colleagues would view it with jealousy, and annoyance at having to pick up the slack. I have known a couple of people ask for and get unpaid leave for non-emergency family reasons, but it was with reluctance and much head shaking. So if I were you I'd be wary about this one.

But maybe other firms and industries are different in this regard, and mdonley's "how does unpaid leave work here?" is a fairly low-risk way to start feeling people out and a great suggestion. Just be careful who you ask. Good luck!
posted by jamesonandwater at 7:52 PM on July 26, 2009

You might consider looking for administrative jobs in your field at local colleges, if there are any. I've only worked for colleges (first, at a college library, and now, in an admin position) and at both jobs I've gotten about 25 vacation days a year, plus winter break and closings for school holidays. In fact, I feel a bit horrified at suggestions that 5 days of vacation time are acceptable, but then, obviously I've been spoiled. If you want a college-like schedule, you'll probably have better luck working for a college than asking for extra time in an environment where it might be unacceptable.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:07 PM on July 26, 2009

As someone who just entered the working world a year ago, straight out of grad school into a fairly laid-back software engineering-type workplace, I have to agree that taking that much time off in your first year sounds like a bad idea, especially unpaid. I guess I'm lucky because my company gives 23 days per year, which seems pretty generous compared to others. But even though that is the case, I did not use anywhere near that much time during my first year. I went on a previously-planned hiking trip with some college friends about a month after starting work, but I made sure my supervisors were aware of it up-front, and it was tied to a long weekend so I really only had to take 2 days off. Then I didn't take any more time off until Thanksgiving and Christmas. I took the "luxury" of a whole week off at Christmas, and since then I haven't taken very much time off except for the odd 3-day weekend here and there.

The downside is I've been working a lot this year. The upside is I have a lot of paid time off in the bank now, and I have had a year to demonstrate my dedication and abilities to my coworkers, so justifying more normal amounts of time off in the coming year will be easy.
posted by Nothlit at 8:22 PM on July 26, 2009

you could fake a family emergency

i do like the fly-the-girlfriend-to-you plan

you've got the money to do that, and it won't cost you your job
posted by Salvatorparadise at 8:26 PM on July 26, 2009

I guess this is related to the question 'why don't people work less when they earn more?,' which I also wonder about...

Because people have a set notion that in the "Real World" there are people called "Adults" who have to make all their desires secondary to things called "careers".

Sorry if I sound snippy here, but I can't believe the number of people here who say it's crazy to even *ask* about extra vacation time. Maybe your employers can give you the extra vacation time. Maybe they can't. Maybe there's some other option that could be worked out. But the only way to find out is to ask.

Adulthood and the real world do require some tradeoffs. But the way to make the most of those tradeoffs is to have the courage to talk openly and honestly about what you want with other people, including people who have some power over you. Don't let other people encourage you to get into the habit of being afraid to even *express* what you want to the people you work for. Learning to have those conversations is a valuable skill. Learning to avoid them is bad for you. Good lives (professional and personal) come to people who are able to take risks.

(And: If this place is going to fire you for, you know, just *asking* about a different vacation arrangement, maybe it's not where you want to work, recession or no...)

(This is my ranty-est post to MeFi ever. I guess I feel strongly about this)
posted by ManInSuit at 8:40 PM on July 26, 2009 [9 favorites]

I'd ask. My experience is that I get more respect at work, not less, when I ask for things. Go into it with a plan, though. You're making a sales pitch, essentially - you need to sell your employer on why it will work.
posted by selfmedicating at 10:06 PM on July 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm with those who caution against asking. In this economy, it's in your best interest to make yourself indispensable. Taking a total of about a month off is hardly advancing that argument.
posted by adjockey at 6:16 AM on July 27, 2009

anonymous: More time would be so great, if I could take off fall/spring break or something, that would be so incredibly golden...

Yeah. No. The point of being adult is that there is no spring break. That is a concept that exists for children and college students.

15 days is very generous by US standards. Do not push the hand that feeds you with extra vacation requests. Also, in case you are not aware of how it works, you normally accrue vacation days. So, if you're planning to take 10 working days off to visit the girlfriend on the other side of the world, make sure you'll have enough vacation days earned for planned trip.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:20 AM on July 27, 2009

See if you can work from home (home being where your girlfriend is). My partner has done this with some regularity because we visit his family often. Flying her to you is another excellent solution.

You love this job and they treat you well. That is an amazingly valuable resource. Do what you can to preserve it.

Your savings are there for an emergency, by the way. It might be odd to have savings but that's because a lot of people have a hard time saving money. Not because it's the ideal scenario.
posted by kathrineg at 9:55 AM on July 27, 2009

Be honest with your boss and see if you can work something out. I couldn't agree with ManInSuit more.
posted by Kwine at 6:54 PM on July 27, 2009

Sounding out others around you sounds like a good plan to me, but I would also encourage you to ask - but frame the question in terms of what you can (and do) offer your employer.

Something along the lines of, "Hi, Boss. Wow, I can't believe what a great job this has turned out to be. I'm loving the work, the rest of the team is great, I feel so lucky to have landed in such a great place right out of college. ... You know, I just thought I'd mention, I know some of my friends have had their companies ask them to take a week or two off to save the company money and keep anyone from getting laid off ... if you discovered that it would help the department's budget to have me take off a week or two, at the point in time, I could totally afford that, and I'd be happy to take that time."

It really, really helps if you genuinely have this attitude: a satisfying work situation is one where management wants to keep you happy and you want to keep them happy, and both sides strive within reason to do well by the other side.

... Also: are you saving for retirement? Seriously, it's important to have some fun money, but if you save aggressively now, it's possible you could have nothing but recess if you can retire at a decently early age.
posted by kristi at 9:41 AM on July 29, 2009

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