The Importance of Vacations

Dear, Anita,

In our company culture, while vacations are not exactly frowned upon, you are expected to “check in” while taking your time off. I’m tempted to book an international cruise just because my employer wouldn’t want to reimburse me for the difficult and costly Internet access! How can I convince my boss that a 100% non-working vacation is my right?

Dear, Time for a Vacation,

Vacation_InfographicI’m sorry to burst your bubble, but the United States is the only developed country in the world without legally required paid vacation. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, there is no federal law requiring employers to offer paid vacation time. The Center for Economic and Policy Research found that many industrialized nations offer mandated paid vacation and holidays ranging from 10 to 38 days! France leads the pack with 30 paid vacation days and one paid holiday. Austria offers 25 paid vacation days plus 13 paid holidays. Even the hard-working Japanese are entitled to 10 paid vacation days per year. (I think it’s time to write your Congressperson.)

In the U.S., paid vacation time off is a benefit, not a right. Granted, it is a very popular benefit; a recent survey by Glassdoor indicates that 78% of employees receive vacation or paid time off.

That being said, if your employer does offer paid vacation, here’s some ammunition to encourage a clean break. Vacations can make workers more productive. The Oxford Economics February 2014 study, “An Assessment of Paid Time Off in the U.S.,” cites statistics that 48% of managers viewed the impact of time off on productivity as positive. Further, managers believe employees who take time off have an improved attitude and better performance at work. A study conducted by former NASA scientists for Air New Zealand found that there is an 82 percent spike in performance among those who’ve just returned from vacation. In a recent Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)/U.S. Travel Association study, a large majority of HR professionals think taking vacation is extremely or very important for performance, morale, wellness, a positive culture, productivity, retention, and creativity. Forbes reports that “job-related stress contributes to absenteeism, lost productivity, and health issues, and these factors cost businesses approximately $344 billion annually.” Vacations can neutralize job-related stress.

Happy workers stay longer at their jobs. The American Management Association reports that the estimated cost of replacing employees ranges from 25% of their salary to five times their salary. Why not keep the workers you have? In its ranking of work-life balance, The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that the United States ranks 25 out of 36 countries (with Denmark, the Netherlands, and Norway in the top three spots).

 

 

Tips for Leaving On Vacation

  • Don’t schedule your vacation during the busiest season in your company. That won’t go over well.
  • Give your employer as much notice as possible, right after you click the “Book Now” button on that travel site.
  • Negotiate how often you will check emails or voicemail. If you’re only expecting one important email midweek, offer to respond on that project only. If your boss wants more input, check your phone or email once a day.
  • Try to get as much of your work done before you leave so you only have to delegate a few tasks to co-workers.
  • Set up a meeting with the person who is covering you to go over last-minute instructions.
  • Give your contact information to one gatekeeper, preferably your boss or your coverage person.
  • Don’t forget to change your outgoing phone message and set up an out of office automatic reply for your emails.
  • Finally, enjoy yourself and come back to work refreshed!

 

How to Brag – Nicely

Dear, Anita,

I am currently assigned to a local company through a temporary agency. This company hires temps first and then decides whether or not to hire permanent. I work 3rd shift, so there is less opportunity to be noticed by management. I am tempted to email my supervisor and “toot my own horn,” as I have never been late or absent, have done every job happily, and even volunteer for overtime. I tend to get overshadowed by more aggressive people, and I don’t want to be overlooked here. How do I bring all this positive info to his attention without sounding like an insufferable braggart? Thanks.

Dear, Bragger Lagger,

Businessman Speaking Through MegaphoneThe great boxer Muhammed Ali once said – and I paraphrase – it ain’t bragging if it’s true. (He also said, “It’s hard to be humble when you’re as great as I am,” but I’m not including that attitude in my advice.) In the world of employment, you’re going to have to man up and boast amiably about your strengths and accomplishments, whether writing cover letters and résumés, while interviewing, and, after you get the job, when asking for a raise.

But there is a fine line between confidence and “supercalifragilisticexpi-braggadocious.” You do need to let your employer know what you have to offer, but not in an egotistical way.

Be pleasantly self-assured. When talking about yourself, add a dash of humbleness. Avoid words like “best” (unless you really did win the “Best Fill-In-Job-Title of the Year” award). When you’re outlining your triumphs and accomplishments, this type of communication often comes across better in person rather than via e-mail (the obvious exception would be your résumé).

Provide evidence. If you say, “I’m a great motivator,” how can that be proven? Reconstruct your statement with specific examples from your past experience. Say something like, “I’ve always had success motivating others by doing X, Y, and Z.”

It’s not about you. It’s about how you can help the new employer. To avoid appearing self-centered, say “we” often to show you’re a team player (remember the axiom, “There’s no ‘I’ in team.”). Chances are you can’t really take full credit for everything on your résumé, unless you were literally a one-person entrepreneurial operation.

Let others boast for you. Bring up comments from co-workers, performance evaluations, and thank you notes or testimonials. “At my last review, my supervisor told me that…” or “A customer recently posted a great review on Yelp after we… ”

Answer questions directly and concisely. Sometimes droning on and on is a nervous habit during in an interview, but it could make you come across as someone who just loves the sound of his own voice. A shy person who avoids eye contact could be misconstrued as having a haughty or condescending attitude.

Avoid other signs that you’re cocky: name-dropping, one-upping, using five-dollar words when a 50-cent word will do, interrupting often, bad-mouthing others (former employers, co-workers, the bad driver who made you late), and to that last example, not accepting any blame. Showing a little vulnerability is not a bad thing. Why else do you think hiring managers ask that double-edged question, “What is your greatest strength and your greatest weakness?”

Whatever you say, be sure it’s true so this quip won’t apply to you: “With a braggart, it’s no sooner done than said.”–Evan Esar

Readers: Have you ever felt the need to brag about yourself to your manager because you don’t feel he/she has noticed your job well done? How did you handle it? 

Do you have a question for Anita Clew? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

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Online Reputation Monitoring

Dear, Anita,

I’m a hiring manager at a company, and I would like to let people know that many HR professionals routinely screen applicants online, checking out not just LinkedIn but Facebook, Twitter, and Google searches. You’d be shocked and amazed at some of the things I’ve seen about job candidates! I don’t have a question; I just think job seekers should be aware of this.

Dear, Undercover Recruiter,

Eye on Computer MonitorThank you for the reminder. Readers, your social (media) life could be killing your career. Every tweet, post, hashtag, comment, profile, and photo on the Internet is adding to or detracting from your online reputation. According to a recent CareerBuilder study, 43 percent of hiring managers who researched candidates via social media found something that caused them not to hire an individual. The top no-nos: posting provocative/inappropriate photos (50%), discussing drinking/drug use (48%), and badmouthing a previous employer (33%). Even if you don’t have half-naked photos of yourself online, something as innocuous as typos in your posts could reflect poorly on you.

Here’s how to manage your online reputation.

Google yourself. Note that some browsers may save information about you, so search from a public computer to be sure you’re getting the same results a potential employer will see. Check all of your name variations (Richard, Dick, etc.), but especially the one you use on your résumé.

Beware of online doppelgangers. If another person with your same name has a poor reputation, be prepared to combat this. If this person has a criminal record, paying a reputation management firm may be the answer. Sign up for Google Alerts with your name to be sure that you’re aware of any news stories about murderers, child molesters, and the like who a potential employer could confuse with you. Another way to contend with the doppelganger effect is to purchase a web domain of your name (if available). On your own website, you can create links to your LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook accounts and include this URL in your cover letter and resume.

Post judiciously. We tell teenagers not to post anything they wouldn’t want Grandma – or Miss Anita! – to see. Now that you’re all grown up, don’t post anything you would want a potential employer to see (review the top three faux pas in the first paragraph). Avoid oversharing (TMI!). Mind what groups you join. Even your extreme political views or a preponderance of snarky comments may have an adverse effect on your career. And let’s hash over #hashtags; don’t post #myjobsucks, #drinktilyoudrop, or anything similar. If you really must have a salty social media record of your shenanigans, you may want to create a separate account under a pseudonym.

Change your privacy settings. Check your Facebook settings to make sure that all of your personal posts are not “Public.” Watch what your friends post, too. Enable timeline and tagging review so that you can approve (or not) your buddies’ ill-conceived tags and posts before they hit your wall. Protect your tweets on Twitter to approve the people who may view your 140-character gems. Consider making your Instagram, Tumblr, and Flickr photos private. Use Secret Boards on Pinterest for your more risqué pins, or go to your settings and change the Search Privacy under your Basic Information. Since LinkedIn is basically Facebook for the job world, it may be an exception to my stringent privacy rules. However, be careful not to connect with people you really do not know. And if you want to keep your new job search on the QT, here are some LinkedIn privacy tips from InformationWeek.

Unwanted content still showing up in a search? Do what companies concerned about their SEO do: bury it. New content will push the old mistakes further down the search list. And, really, how many times have you gone to page 3 or 4 of the search results?

Establish credibility and visibility. Use a blog to make yourself an expert in your field. Your blog will be an asset that will follow you from job to job. Post comments and share articles on LinkedIn groups. Even if you don’t have a doppelganger to worry about, consider creating your own personal website with professional content. Post in the comments below if you’d like me to devote an upcoming blog post to the subject of creating your own personal brand website and blog.

Readers: How do you handle the privacy settings on your social media accounts?

World’s Worst Jobs

Dear, Anita,

I have the worst job in the world. My boss is demanding and yells all the time, I often have to work late to meet unreasonable deadlines, and I don’t get paid what I deserve. Of course, I found this all out AFTER I went to work for the company. How can I make sure I get into a better job next time?

Dear, Grass is Greener,

You are not alone. As a matter of fact, 70 percent of Americans are “not engaged” or are “actively disengaged” with their jobs, according to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace study. It does sound like you have several reasons for being unhappy in your current situation. However, remember the old adage… “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.” Sometimes, you may have it better than you thought.

For example, check out the #WorldsToughestJob interview that has gone viral:

This job requires 24/7 work weeks. No vacation. No salary. Wait… what? This “Director of Operations” job description from American Greetings, while quite accurate, is not an apples-to-apples comparison to your for-pay job.

But even according to the recently released 2014 Jobs Rated report from CareerCast, you don’t have the worst job in the world. That dubious honor goes to lumberjacks, who work outdoors in extreme weather conditions operating dangerous machinery that could cause bodily injury – all for $24K a year. Other jobs in the bottom 10 include:

  • Newspaper reporter – job growth is declining as more print publications go defunct
  • Broadcaster – highly competitive and stressful
  • Firefighters and military personnel – duh… dangerous
  • Taxi driver – stressful and low pay
  • Head cook – imagine the nerve-racking lunch rush
  • Flight attendant – air rage
  • Garbage collector – no explanation needed

The Jobs Rated report also lists the Best Jobs of 2104, based on projected job growth, median salary, and working conditions. Have you got a degree? Many of the highest-rated jobs require higher education. The top 10 positions include mathematician, university professor, statistician, actuary, software engineer, computer systems analyst, occupational therapist, audiologist, speech pathologist, and dental hygienist (although I would argue that sticking your fingers in someone else’s mouth is not a great work environment). Click here for the full list of 200 rated jobs.

To check out a company before you accept another job offer, you may want to do a little snooping on Glassdoor.com. Here, employees can anonymously rate their companies and managers. Take this with a grain of salt, though, as we all know disgruntled workers tend to complain the loudest. Smaller mom-and-pop businesses may not show up on Glassdoor, so reconnoiter within your local network. Check LinkedIn also to see if you have any connections that you can chat with about a company’s culture.

But what may be a good fit for someone else may not work for you. Don’t just accept the first offer you receive just to get out of your current situation. Besides the obvious criteria of “can I do the job?” and “does it pay enough?”… consider your personal satisfaction, the company culture, and the opportunities for personal and professional growth.

Readers: How would you rate your job based on working climate, pay rate, and how you forecast the future of the position?

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

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Disclaimer

Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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