Applying for a new job- but what to do about a planned vacation?
October 15, 2013 2:20 AM   Subscribe

After years of being on the fence about leaving and gritting my teeth while putting up with a shitty work environment, I'm ready to start applying for jobs. It's taken me a long time to get brave enough to do this, so I'm pretty happy that I'm going to pull the plug! But I feel like I can't start applying for positions because of an upcoming vacation, and I'm not sure what to do.

Ideally, I would love to quit my job tomorrow, but I know I need to stick it out until I find a new job. My concern with applying for jobs now is that I have a trip coming up in December to visit family far away. The tickets are bought, plans are made, and I've been granted leave from my current employer for almost 3 weeks (I have a lot of vacation stored up). Going on the trip is very important to me because I rarely see this family member. Not going is not an option.

Some jobs I like list the start date, but others don't. If they are listing the start date before my trip, I'm ignoring them because I figure they won't want to hire someone who would immediately want to take off. But I'm not sure what to do about the jobs that don't list a start date.

So my questions:
1. Should I be writing off the jobs that have a start date before my trip?
2. Is it normal to contact the organization listing the position to ask when the start date will be if they haven't given that information up front? I don't want to be a pest.
3. It's now mid-October. Is it crazy to be applying for jobs that would start for me in mid-January after the trip was over? (Presuming of course that they would want me to start after the trip . . .)
4. I don't want to lead anyone on about my availability. Should I put my expected availability in a cover letter or wait to let it come up in an interview?

Other details which may or may not be pertinent: I work in a non-profit. There aren't many positions available in my field (I was on a search committee for a similar position that had 150 applicants . . . about 20 of them were well-qualified), so it's hard to not apply to any jobs that do pop up.

I appreciate your help and feedback! I've never gone through the traditional job-seeking process before so I'm a little overwhelmed right now.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (28 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Interview practice is good regardless of the outcome, explain that you have this prior commitment at the interview should it seem worth mentioning.
posted by epo at 2:52 AM on October 15, 2013 [9 favorites]

First, don't describe it as a vacation. Even if you just vaguely call it "some travel coming up from date x to date y." If they press on what you'll be traveling for, talk about the event - a wedding, your grandmother's memorial service, family reunion, and subtly connect it to something that makes you a good employee or well rounded person.

That said, there may not be a time in the interview when it seems appropriate to mention it. But there probably will. For instance you might ask, "why is the start date December 10th?" Maybe it's because they have a new contract that requires widgets to begin production on Jan 10 and they need the new hire to be totally familiar with the process. You can either talk about why you don't expect to need that much time because you already use their system, or how you are willing to put in extra hours to familiarize yourself. And it will give you an idea of how the people deal with unexpected things, how they accommodate, how they present their willingness to be flexible.

Remember, you are interviewing them also. If they react poorly to your planned travel, you don't want to work their, because they may not react well to your planned travel in the future. Beware the smarmy fake "of course we could get through this" that is sometimes followed up by constantly reminding you what a huge favor they did in letting you take that vacation before starting.
posted by bilabial at 3:08 AM on October 15, 2013 [12 favorites]

I got my last job when I was taking a three week holiday a couple of months later. I didn't tell them until they offered me the job and I confirmed I wanted to take it. That way, they had locked me in psychologically, and a three week vacation was no big deal. If you're gonna do it, do it that way.
posted by smoke at 3:09 AM on October 15, 2013 [10 favorites]

Good for you! When I was in a bad work situation I was scared to leave, but to my surprise I found interviewing to be empowering.

This is a not-uncommon issue for new hires - having a trip planned ahead of time. It depends on the job and the industry, but I've never had an employer raise a fuss when I told them I had travel plans around the start date. Just be professional and assertive. Tell them you will work with their schedule, except for those three weeks when you already have a trip planned. You will probably need to take unpaid leave since you won't have much vacation time banked, so let them know you're planning on unpaid leave so it's clear you're not asking for an advance on vacation days. I've never had an employer have a problem with a little unpaid leave on occasion — I'm sure there are some pain-in-the-neck employers who would do it, but it's not universal.

I would not reach out about the start date before applying. Apply like mad to anything that looks interesting and figure out the details once you get an interview. Feel free to ask before, during, or after the interview as part of the questions you would normally ask about a job. Start dates are sometimes set in stone, but they are often negotiated between the employer and employee. They may have a preferred start date but it may not mean much if they want to bring you on. Also, some companies move quickly and will have somebody start a month from now for a job that's currently posted, but many of them will take time to get the process moving so some of the jobs that are posted today may not start until January. Plus, when you factor in the time it takes to write up a resume, customize a cover letter for the job, actually go on the interview, get an offer, and get started, it won't be long until the jobs you're looking at mostly start in January. So I say apply to anything that looks good because you don't know which companies are flexible until you're in the process and all the time and energy spent asking and worrying about start dates is a distraction from what you really need to be doing: applying.

Ditto smoke: I think the best time to bring this up is once they have made an offer and you have accepted it. That way they are already somewhat committed to you, but there is still plenty of time for you and them to figure out how your start schedule will work. When you contact them to accept the job, you will probably discuss some details with them such as start date. That's a good time to let them know about this trip. Just say it matter-of-factly and let them know that if there are important events or training during that period that you want to work out a schedule so you can make up any important events you missed. I wouldn't bring it up before they make an offer, as it might color their decision when their decision really should be made based on your abilities. And I wouldn't wait until right before you start or when you start, because they might feel blindsided by the information. If you ask to take time for this trip and they have a problem with it, write it off as a good interview experience and say that you dodged a bullet by according such an inflexible place.
posted by Tehhund at 3:49 AM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

I've totally done this. In fact, two days after I started work at my current job, I went on a two week vacation. I think this is quite common.
posted by Stewriffic at 3:56 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Don't write yourself off until after your vacation. My sister started a new job a week before she took a week off for my wedding.

If you're the right employee for them they will almost definitely accomodate this.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 4:02 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

My last two jobs I've started and then gone on holiday for a week a few days later. I let them know I have planned holiday coming up at the recruiter/interview stage and that I would be happy to take it as unpaid leave and both times they decided they wanted to bring me in before I went away rather than have me start after my holiday. No harm in asking - just apply, you never know. Worst case you don't get offered the job, and if you weren't going to apply anyway then it's no loss.
posted by corvine at 4:03 AM on October 15, 2013

Echoing this is not uncommon at all. If you feel like the interviews are going well and an offer is forthcoming, mention that you have booked travel (tickets, reservations, etc) for such-and-such dates and work a starting date around them. People make vacation or family-event plans a year out sometimes, but job changes happen on their own schedule. I wouldn't sweat it.
posted by jquinby at 4:28 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I did this. I mentioned my upcoming vacation right after I received my job offer, while I was negotiating salary. I knew I wouldn't have enough PTO stored up, so I asked to take those days unpaid because my vacation was already paid for and couldn't be changed easily. It was no problem at all.

My vacation was three weeks after I started, by the way. It takes awhile to find a job, sometimes it just works out that way. No big deal.
posted by smalls at 4:47 AM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

This is implicit in some of the other comments, but you should not bring this up (unless asked) in your preliminary interviews: this is on the same principal that you don't bring up salary in the first interview. It would be appropriate to bring up if and when salary and benefits are discussed. And, for what it's worth, the last time I was looking for work (albeit in a different, but very high-demand, field), it was over a month from first contact to my start date, and that was with hurrying on both sides. A December vacation would probably fall about when your notice period would, anyway.
posted by mr vino at 5:18 AM on October 15, 2013 [4 favorites]

If you start aggressively applying for jobs today (aggressively = between 1 and 10 applications per day), you should assume your job search will take at least 6 months.

If you are offered a job before you have taken your vacation, they will probably ask you when you can start, and you can give a date that's after your vacation.

If they say they need you to start earlier, you can say you'd be happy to but you have some travel arrangements made between [date] and [date] and is that okay with them? Usually they will accommodate you and if not, then, oh well.
posted by tel3path at 5:28 AM on October 15, 2013 [8 favorites]

This is no big deal. When you negotiate your offer, simply say, "I have travel scheduled for X through Y." I've done this, and while I may not have been paid for the vacation, I had no problem with getting the time off.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:47 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I just hired someone for an Oct. 28 start date, knowing that he is going to Europe for almost two weeks in November and Florida to see family some time in December. He didn't mention it until the second interview and I'm fine with it.

So, it may just depend.
posted by Pax at 6:01 AM on October 15, 2013

Or maybe he even mentioned it after I made the informal offer, now that I think about it.

Certainly don't let it stop you from applying.
posted by Pax at 6:03 AM on October 15, 2013

Agreeing with others here, don't mention it until a job offer when they are asking for a confirmed start date.

Also, sometimes it takes a while to actually get INTO a new job. The job I just started a little over 2 weeks ago took about 6 weeks. I applied on Aug. 14th, did a phone interview at the start of Sept. then an in-person interview later that week, then I had to wait a week for them to make a decision, then a week and a half to get into the job. So I didn't start until September 30.

Another new hire isn't starting until over 2 weeks after accepting their offer.

Basically, it may take a bit to actually work out all the red tape and kinks in the hiring process and can take a while to get into a job even when you are the one they want.

That said, if you get an offer in November, I don't think it would be weird at all to let them know that you need to give you employer two weeks, then take your trip or whatever. (So about 5 weeks total.) Also, there can be a chance that you don't even find something until after your vacation.

Don't put a start date unless it's required on an application. Don't bring it up unless it sounds like they want to get you into a job within days or they press you for a confirmed date. I also agree with others that if they want you, it's not that long to wait.
posted by Crystalinne at 6:15 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I did not discuss prior travel plans during the interview process. It is immaterial as to whether you are qualified for the job.

ONCE you have been extended an offer, or at least when you are whittled down to a final candidate, then it is time to start discussing changes and special snowflake details. This is the part where you differentiate yourself as a top performer worth exceptions. Your first 90 days are generally 'at work' so you let them know before you start that you have prior commitments, scheduled before the interview process began from dates 'a' to 'b'. These will be unpaid, but hopefully you have overlapping vacation pay from your prior employer to cover that period. Now here's the thing. Once you are 'in' with the new company, you have ONE day to tell them all these special snowflake job breaks. that means, I notified my employer of two Jury Duty days (mine and my wife's), as well as plans to travel around thanksgiving. Two days later, when someone said 'hey, I'd like you to attend conference 'X' for me - which has nothing to do with your new position' I had to decline. The only exception to this is also, when my grandfather passed, I contacted my employer, and took bereavement leave for a very different form of travel.
posted by Nanukthedog at 6:16 AM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

It's pretty common for new hires to have some firm travel plans when they join a new company. As long as you're up-front about it and are willing to accept that the time you take off from the new gig might wind up being unpaid (depending on how vacation time is allotted in your new company), it shouldn't be a big deal.
posted by xingcat at 6:17 AM on October 15, 2013

Maybe they're listing the start date even though it's something they picked kind of arbitrarily - definitely ask them why that date. Or, I guess that's getting ahead of things - first step, definitely apply for those jobs anyway.

It may not be quite the same for your industry, but I've never had a start date less than 6 weeks from when I submitted a resume. Things just move very slowly, even when they've got the best of intentions and are nominally moving as fast as they can. Taking the holiday season into account, they're probably moving even slower, and planning a start date in January is perfectly reasonable. So definitely apply for jobs now.
posted by aimedwander at 6:21 AM on October 15, 2013

Oh, you mention having a lot of vacation time stored up with your current employer - if all goes well, you'll be able to cash that out, right? Because if you've got a new employer by December, they'll probably be fairly flexible about your time off (assuming it's not a holiday-relevant industry that requires all employees to be there all of December) but it will certainly be unpaid leave. So keep that in mind when you're budgeting.
posted by aimedwander at 6:23 AM on October 15, 2013

I was in this position several years ago and waited until they'd offered the job and we were talking start date, which seems to me to be the right time for this sort of thing.
posted by rmd1023 at 7:17 AM on October 15, 2013

You don't lose anything by starting to look immediately. If you apply for something you like and get an interview, then I would start to think about mentioning your trip in your first or second interview, just as a caveat. I don't know what your industry or level within your field is, but most (I would assume) professional companies wouldn't bat an eyelash about holding fast to a start date if they've found a candidate that they like.

When I started my current job, I mentioned that I had a trip scheduled the very next month, with tickets already purchased. It was far enough out so that it didn't make sense holding off my start date, so I just used what little vacation I would accumulate that year and also took two unpaid days. If you're a worthwhile candidate and they like you, they should be flexible.
posted by JimBJ9 at 7:22 AM on October 15, 2013

Don't count out jobs with start dates in December! If you get offered the job, that's the time to talk about your planned travel.

FWIW, two people have joined my department in the last year: one had to start quite a bit later than we'd hoped AND had an already planned overseas vacation in his first month; the other had an already-arranged freelance(ish) job that put back her start date by a month or so. In both cases, not a huge deal, ultimately. Better to have a good person start a little late or be gone for a bit, then to not have them there at all!
posted by epersonae at 10:40 AM on October 15, 2013

In my last few hires, I was totally comfortable granting people time off for plans they had already made. As someone said, we wanted you enough to hire you, so we can certainly wait an extra week or two. :7) Just be honest and say you're out of town that week (or whatever).
posted by wenestvedt at 11:24 AM on October 15, 2013

This is not that unusual of a situation. When I was applying for jobs around the time of my wedding, I told them upfront and we scheduled our second interview for after we got back from our honeymoon. A friend recently got a job after informing those hiring that she had already scheduled a trip to Iceland. If they really want to hire you, they'll figure it out.
posted by kat518 at 12:04 PM on October 15, 2013

Don't quit your job. Apply and if they decide to hire you, ask to start after you come back from your trip, or tell them you'll start before the trip and take the time unpaid, their choice.

Maybe this is no longer operative in today's economy, but my view is that if an employer is shitty about a trip, I don't want to work there.
posted by cnc at 2:58 PM on October 15, 2013

Well first of all, most jobs with a listed "start date" mean "date we hope we will be able to have someone start, but probably not because hiring takes forever." So unless it's some kind of corporate gig where they have cohorts start a training program on a set date, or they absolutely need someone by X date to cover someone else's leave, the start date is usually malleable and meaningless.

That said, the appropriate time to bring this up is after the offer is made and before accepting.
posted by radioamy at 7:13 PM on October 15, 2013

Also, I don't mean to be negative, but it often takes longer than you expect to find a job, so realistically if you start now you still may be applying in January. Unfortunately that's the truth in today's economy.
posted by radioamy at 7:14 PM on October 15, 2013 depends on the job and how high up you are. At my work, we were hiring people for six month long positions in November one year and the one (otherwise truly outstanding) candidate had a 2-week planned vacation in December. She didn't get the job ONLY because of that vacation. So maybe don't apply for jobs that are temporary, I guess? I guess if you're a high up employee they won't care, but if they really need you for something that month it might not fly.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:14 PM on October 15, 2013

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