Thanks for hiring me, now give me my vacation.
July 26, 2012 10:36 AM   Subscribe

How do I tell potential employers that I NEED to go to this 3 week arts residency I've been awarded, mid-fall?

Joy: was awarded a writing residency at a fantastic arts colony, for three weeks in the fall. This is kind of a game-changer situation for me and my writing career, and I've already committed to it.

Difficulty: Also applying for jobs right now. Some full time, some part-time, all beginning roughly in August/September. I'm hesitant to bring up the residency in interviews, unless employers specifically ask whether there are any periods when I'd be unavailable. I have done so in some situations, however, and was not hired for those positions, though there's no way to tell whether this has anything to do with the residency.

So, how and when ought this be brought up? After the job offer? Before? I might be able to shorten my residency to two weeks, but would ideally like to take full advantage of the time they've offered me. I really need a job, but, also, work to support my ongoing
posted by Miss T.Horn to Work & Money (26 answers total)
Ooops. Dang. Meant to write, "Work to support my ongoing writing career."
posted by Miss T.Horn at 10:37 AM on July 26, 2012

Bring it up after the job offer, when they already want you and you're negotiating the terms.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 10:40 AM on July 26, 2012 [16 favorites]

Normally I would say after the offer, but 3 weeks is a long time, and might be a dealbreaker for some. You need to bring it up in the interview.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:40 AM on July 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

I wouldn't mention it until you get an offer. A reasonable employer who wants to hire you will understand prior commitments. I wouldn't expect them to pay you during those three weeks, though.
posted by something something at 10:40 AM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

"Some full time, some part-time, all beginning roughly in August/September."

What kind of jobs? Are these teaching or other seasonal jobs for the semester, or are they general year-round jobs? If they're seasonal/semesterly, it might be a hassle ... but I would still go to your residency.

If they're year-round, when they ask whether there are unavailable periods, or after you have the job offer in hand, say, "I've been granted a prestigious writing residency that lasts three weeks, and I have committed to it, so I won't be available for these three weeks in October."

Employers I've had in the past have been totally flexible for already-planned vacations and for weddings and all kinds of things of that nature. Three weeks is long, but this is a unique situation that potentially improves your work and your prestige for the company -- depending on the type of work.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:42 AM on July 26, 2012 [4 favorites]

It sounds like the writing residency is your priority. It could be a dealbreaker for those hiring you, though. Bring it up in the interview. Those for whom it's not an issue will hire you anyway, and you don't want to waste the time of those who assume that this new job is going to be your first priority. You gain nothing by postponing letting them know.
posted by smilingtiger at 10:44 AM on July 26, 2012

Nthing bring it up after the job offer. Describe it as a prior committment.
posted by thermonuclear.jive.turkey at 10:45 AM on July 26, 2012 [5 favorites]

I've been through this with a one week vacation. While negotiating after I got the offer I simply told them I had the beach house reserved months ago, blah blah blah. Not only did they tell me to enjoy my vacation, they gave me 50% pay for the week. Assuming writing is part of your job and this will make you a better writer, it should be a no-brainer for somebody that already wants to hire you.
posted by COD at 10:52 AM on July 26, 2012

I've done this, albeit for two weeks, not three. I waited until I had an offer and we were discussing start dates before explaining that I had a prior commitment and could only start after it was over. It was fine.
posted by Tamanna at 10:53 AM on July 26, 2012

If it scares them at the offer stage, it would scare them at the interview stage too. Bring it up after the offer and while negotiating terms, unless they ask about any prior commitments. And it is a prior commitment -- people have those. If you're otherwise a good fit for the job, it won't matter much.
posted by sleevener at 10:56 AM on July 26, 2012

Just to clarify: this is a mix of academic jobs for which I'm well-suited, and part-time stuff at everything from computer shops to paper stores, just to keep the lights on (in case the full-time gigs don't pan out). Negotiating with the academic jobs makes sense, but I'm not sure how to approach the part-time joe jobs. Any thoughts on that would be appreciated.
posted by Miss T.Horn at 10:59 AM on July 26, 2012

I would not sell it as an arts residency. Instead tell them it's a prior commitment that requires you to travel. Think of how much you're comfortable sharing or lying about before you have this conversation, but never offer a job a reason not to hire you.
posted by tulip-socks at 11:02 AM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

After the offer. Let them figure out that they really want you in the position first -- don't give them excuses to mentally throw out your application before they've even given you serious consideration. I've hired people with these kinds of prior commitments when I really wanted them.
posted by ourobouros at 11:02 AM on July 26, 2012

I had a multiple-week international wedding to attend two months after I began a new job; I brought it up during the interviews and said it wasn't negotiable. I wasn't paid for the time I was gone, but it wasn't a surprise and everybody was understanding about it.
posted by par court at 11:03 AM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

If I were to offer you a job only to find out that you had known all along that you would not be available for that three week period I'd figure that you were a bit of a manipulative jerk who really didn't see the need to deal frankly with me--it would make me far more likely to say "Oh, well I'm sorry that won't work out then" and move on to the next person on my list than if you were to bring it up in the interview.

If you bring it up in the interview you get a chance to showcase the fact that you're a serious, responsible adult. You can say that you understand that it might be a deal breaker, but that it's very important to you and to your ultimate ambitions. You can also say that if it is possible for them to hire you anyway you can promise to be completely committed to the job other than that period.

Yes, a lot of people will probably turn you down at that stage--but I really don't see it being likely that waiting until after the offer will make them think "oh, I really don't want to give him the job if this is the case, but it'll just be SUCH a bore calling the next person on my list. What the hell, I'll give him the job anyway!"

(Him? Her? Sorry--change pronouns as appropriate).
posted by yoink at 11:04 AM on July 26, 2012 [8 favorites]

Part time jobs probably aren't going to be as accommodating as it's much easier to replace a part time employee. But approach it the same way. You've got a 3 week commitment out of town. If they say no, they say no and you try again with somebody else.
posted by COD at 11:04 AM on July 26, 2012

Your best approach is probably going to be to look for temp work to tide you over until after this arts residency. Because neither "I am going to be away for three weeks during my probation period" nor "To do a residency related to what I really want to do, which obviously isn't the job I'm applying for" really play well in interviews.

You can try negotiating this stuff -- I'd wait until after the first interview, but answer honestly if they ask -- but as you've already realized it's not that likely to work.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:10 AM on July 26, 2012 [4 favorites]

I would also be annoyed if someone came out with that during the offer phase, but that may because we always ask a kind of general "Is there anything else we need to know" type question at the end. I've had people tell me during the interview that they needed a couple of weeks off for a previous committment and we hired them anyway. This was for permanent positions though. We didn't pay them for the period they were away. I say tell them up-front.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 11:42 AM on July 26, 2012

If you need the part-time jobs to survive, don't tell them until really soon beforehand or just quit that day. It is a dick move to be sure, but if you're doing something that is easy in, easy out then it shouldn't be a huge problem for them. I wouldn't do this with anything that required more than a few hours of training and I'd also only do it if I were struggling to meet my basic needs. But there you go.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:46 AM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Almost always in an interview they ask, "When are you available to start?" That's when yo tell them.
posted by Houstonian at 11:52 AM on July 26, 2012

If I were to offer you a job only to find out that you had known all along that you would not be available for that three week period I'd figure that you were a bit of a manipulative jerk who really didn't see the need to deal frankly with me--it would make me far more likely to say "Oh, well I'm sorry that won't work out then" and move on to the next person on my list than if you were to bring it up in the interview.

That's interesting, because I'd be more likely to do the opposite. Do I want to make an offer to the person with complicated issues where I'll have to do a bunch of extra paperwork to get their unpaid leave during their probationary period, or a person who has no issues? That's an easy question to answer. But if I've already decided to hire a person, then dealing with minor issues like a pre-scheduled vacation is not really all that big of a deal.

Unless the positions you are applying to are writing- or arts-related, do not play up the arts residency thing; that just makes you sound like someone who will ditch this job as soon as something more in your field comes along. I don't really see what difference part- and full-time is for this; it's the same thing of getting to the job offer stage and then telling them that your availability will be complicated, same as if you had a wedding coming up or whatever.
posted by Forktine at 12:34 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Agreed with fork tine. This is not unusual and people who do it are not jerks. When people are pregnant, the common practice is not to tell the job until you are hired (unless you can't hide it). Typically, the idea is not to tell people stuff immediately that is going to turn them off and make them not want to hire you, if you want the job, that is. I've also known people planning long honeymoons who negotiated this into the plan once they had received an offer. Of course if they specifically asked you during the interview about something like this, don't lie.

I hire people fairly frequently and it doesn't make me angry when the person I offer the job to asks for compromises or concessions. This is just what hiring people is like - there are always negotiations about start dates, salaries, vacations, etc. If you really want the person and have decided they are the best for the job, then you will work with them to make the compromise. If not, there's always the next person down the list, and it takes about 2 seconds to offer the job to someone else.

Now, since you're talking part time jobs that sound pretty minor, I would agree with the suggestion that you either quit at that point or tell them that you need a few weeks off and understand if they tell you they can't do that and will have to hire someone else. The turnover at such jobs is high. As the young rope rider said, if you want the job, don't tell them about this. They don't care about your career.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 12:53 PM on July 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

I also want to suggest temp work, which would fit well with the "keep the lights on" side of your job search. Not only would it be better than part time retail jobs in that you wouldn't have to deal with this whole scheduling issue, but additionally you might be able to get full-time temp work for all or most of the time until your residency, and it's not only flexible but also generally pays better than retail.

If you've tried applying online to temp agencies and haven't heard back from them, try also walking into their offices with your resume. I applied online to a major temp agency, but on the "what's your expected wage?" question answered about $1 per hour more than their usual higher-end wage, and didn't hear back. When I dropped my resume off with the same agency in person, they were immediately keen to get me signed up, and I was off on a job for them within the week. I've been temping all year and have been employed 85-90% of the time I've been available. Most of my jobs have been filling in for receptionists on sick leave or vacation--on assigments like this, you would even have time to write.
posted by snorkmaiden at 1:41 PM on July 26, 2012

You mention that you're looking at academia for semester-long positions. Will you be teaching? I have worked in academia as an adjunct - I cannot imagine the administration being okay with a three-week gap in classes right in the middle of a semester.

If that is the case (you would be teaching), I would consider taking "keep the lights on" work until next semester. It would be a hassle for you, the administration, and your students to be gone for three weeks in October.
posted by Elly Vortex at 2:28 PM on July 26, 2012

Yeah, I think in academia or part time this would be A Problem. We actually didn't hire a person in my office because the job started in November and ran for a few months, and she had a planned 2-week family vacation in December. Sadly, the candidate who got the job was a lot less good, but as far as my boss was concerned, the only difference between the two was that one would be gone in our busy season, so that was enough to damn her. So it'll depend on the job, but high-powered jobs are more likely to work with you if you're the top, and otherwise...not so much. I wouldn't really expect that you can land a job and then take off for a few weeks and have them be cool with it.

But when you have to mention it, don't tell them what it actually is, be vague and say some kind of "prior commitment" thing and make it sound busy and not optional to skip.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:01 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

In my experience working in a retail environment, this is probably going to be a dealbreaker. Then again, young rope rider has a good point. Up and quitting the part time retail job is not going to be a big deal.

If you'd be teaching, this sounds totally unworkable. In college I had professors who missed a class meeting to attend a conference. Missing multiple weeks would have been unheard of.
posted by Sara C. at 7:57 PM on July 26, 2012

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