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August 26, 2011
Take That Vacation or Take That Job? How Do You Choose?
Job searching, as we all know, is incredibly stressful. As the mantra goes, looking for a job IS a full-time job, which is exactly why you should also carefully plan some time off to recharge the batteries. It’s a must so you have the stamina to keep up your morale, not to mention your energy levels.

So what happens when you have a vacation that you’ve paid for (including airline tickets and other expenses), and right before you are packing your bags a miracle happens and a job offer comes along?

Tough call.

While you shouldn’t mention this during the interview phase until it is clear that a job offer is in the works, there comes a point where you need to make some decisions.

The question on how to handle this situation comes up frequently, and there are a couple of ways to deal with it, especially since you have already sunk in a pretty good chunk of change investing in much-needed R&R.

1. Drop everything and completely cancel your plans. That sounds rather dramatic, but then again, if you have been looking for work for an extended period of time, it would be a relief to have a job…so those vacation plans, no matter how tempting, can wait. If you opt to cancel those plans, however, don’t mention it to the employer. They should not be made to feel that they have caused you an inconvenience. If you cancel your vacation, keep mum about any cancelled plans and instead focus on getting acclimated with the new job and savoring the moment of being the top candidate.

2. Start looking into options to shift vacation dates around. Sometimes, you have some flexibility and can either rebook later or get a credit. It might be worth saving the vacation time for later once your new work schedule gets smoothed out and you have the actual time to take off. Don’t mention this situation to the employer because it really doesn’t concern them!

3. If your plans are non-cancellable or exceptionally complex (as in involving other people), be up front.  Employers hate surprises. Before you sign on to the company, you should absolutely mention that you have another commitment coming up. Most companies are aware that they aren’t the center of the universe and there is a high likelihood that the new employee probably has some pre-existing commitments that may affect their initial schedule after joining the company. Be up front, mention the dates and general nature of the request, and ask how the employer prefers to work around this. Most will be willing to work with you and be flexible.

4.  Least preferable: “The Last Stand.”  It may come down to this: After disclosing your conflict, the employer says: Cancel the plans. The obstacle: You don’t want to or can’t. Time for a stand-off, which isn’t the best way to start off on the right foot with an employer, to say the least.  The company holds the upper hand, with the job carrot dangling in front of you, but this offer can evaporate if they sense trouble or difficulty in accepting it on your end.  I’ve never actually heard of anyone ditching a job offer in favor of a vacation, but stranger things have happened. You may find resistance from the employer after disclosing pre-existing plans, and it is possible that you end up in the position of not being very happy and taking a loss on the vacation. That means you aren’t very pleased, either, and can provide an insight into the company management culture that you might not like.

What situations have you encountered when trying to reconcile an employment offer with pre-scheduled plans or conflicts with your new job? How have you handled it?

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Dawn Rasmussen, CMP, is the president of Portland, Ore.-based Pathfinder Writing and Careers, which specializes in mid- to upper-management résumés. She is an active volunteer in her community and donates her time teaching a résumé writing class at the Oregon Employment Department every week to help empower unemployed professionals and workers.
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