Over drinks, a friend recently confessed that she’d done something shameless.
“I took a two-week vacation to Thailand,” she said. “My boss gave me the stank eye and told me ‘I worked so hard and deserved it’ … but I knew she was patronizing me.” Bitter reaction aside, my friend felt justified in her decision.
She’d clocked the long hours, went above and beyond and did it with flair.
What difference did it make if she traveled the world? Wasn’t she entitled to what was written in her contract?
Um, not quite.
In the post-recession era, when good jobs are still scarce and a lot of us are desperate for a paycheck, going offline for two weeks is nearly unheard of and can be a career-killing move. We asked a few experts whether the two-week vacation—a holdover from the pension era—is passé in the post-recession and how to go about taking one.
Who should take two-week vacations
According to Penelope Trunk, founder of Brazen Careerist, it comes down to your spot on the totem pole.
“If they’re not going to fire you because you’re valuable, then if you don’t take the vacation you’ll look like you’re scared that you’re not valuable,” she said. “Then again, if you’re an entry-level person it’s not worth it to pay for the vacation.”
Also, anyone with “real responsibility” would find it pretty difficult to take two weeks off. And while those with the least amount of responsibility might find it easier to do, they’re better off focusing on their career.
“If you’re entry-level, then the right time to take a vacation is in between jobs,” Trunk said, adding that job-hopping is crucial for climbing the career ladder in your 20s. “If you’re not there for two weeks, you’re not getting your work done. If you’re at a higher level, you can still hit the deadlines you’re not there for.”
However, Samantha Zupan, career expert with Glassdoor.com feels differently: “I think bottom-line that if you have that vacation time, that’s your vacation time,” she told Your Money.
But what if the buck stops with you?
“In this case you’ll likely have a team and set an example,” Zupan said. “You should build a strong team so they can carry things through, making sure they’re armed and equipped to handle any rough patches without you there.”
Planning is everything
Before you splurge on airfare, first assess whether you’re having regular meetings with your boss and what the work planning cycle is like, said Zupan.
“If you’re leaving when things get hectic and busy, that’s not a good move,” she said. “So it comes down to planning and having those conversations with your direct boss. That can alleviate the tough reaction and help you feel comfortable about going on vacation. Plus you won’t be checking your email constantly.”
Also understand the company’s culture. Hopefully you learned this during the interview process, but knowing the company’s sentiment toward taking vacation should give you a clue as to whether booking that dream trip to Bali will tick off your boss.
“Unfortunately, you can get into situations where people aren’t nice,” Zupan said. But as career writer Alexandra Levitt notes, sometimes you just need a vacation.
“People are burning out and it’s going to have serious, long-term consequences because employers have been working people so hard,” she said. “Take the vacation, enjoy it and don’t work. You have to draw the line somewhere.”