Don’t underestimate the importance of taking time between jobs. While the last few weeks in your old position can be a scramble of tying up projects and training a replacement, you’re also expected to hit the ground running and prove yourself in your new post. The stress and scrutiny can be incredibly taxing—even more so when you realize it might be six months or more before you can take vacation at your new company.
“The mistake so many people make is saying they can start Monday after leaving a job Friday,” says Robin Ryan, a career counselor and author of 60 Seconds and You’re Hired. “But building in even a few days—ideally a week—can be so helpful to get you rejuvenated and ready to start your new job.”
Of course, getting (and affording) a week-long buffer isn’t always as easy as asking for it. But there are smart strategies to blow past the hurdles keeping you from some well-deserved R&R.
HURDLE 1: THE OFFER LETTER LISTS A START DATE THAT IS PAINFULLY SOON.
SOLUTION: This is absolutely the right time to talk about start dates, says Ryan, so go ahead and gently push back on whatever date the company suggests. It might be that the hiring manager defaults to setting starts two weeks in the future (to accommodate the usual notice most new hires need to give their old jobs). Or it could be that there’s some pressing project or reason that start date is crucial. You won’t know unless you ask.
“You don’t need to give them an explanation,” says Ryan. “When you accept the offer, say that you’d prefer to start on X date instead and see what they say.” Most companies are more flexible than new employees fear, she says.
HURDLE 2: YOUR DATE IS SET IN STONE.
SOLUTION: If your new position absolutely has to start on a certain date, because of a big work event or pressing project, you might want to shorten the notice you give your current company. While two weeks is the standard across all industries, some managers will welcome the chance to cut your notice short, says Ryan. Position it as a request rather than an ultimatum, though, or you risk souring your relationship with the company. “You want to do everything you can to be gracious and nice on the way out,” says Ryan. “You never know if you might want to return there some day or use a reference from there, so you don’t want to burn any bridges on your way out the door.”
HURDLE 3: YOU HAVE A VACATION PLANNED JUST A FEW WEEKS LATER.
SOLUTION: Be upfront with the hiring manager. While most companies won’t want you to plan time off in the first few months of a new post, it’s not uncommon to have a long-planned wedding or family reunion already on the books. It could be that the hiring manager wants to push back your start date to the other side of that vacation—which will naturally give you a week between gigs. Or the hiring manager may ask you to go ahead and start now, then enjoy the time off as planned—and vacation a few weeks into a new gig is almost as good as R&R beforehand. This is another situation where Ryan recommends being both gracious and upfront. Hiring managers are human, after all, and they’ll understand that you don’t want to cancel traveling to your sister’s wedding just to accommodate a start date.
HURDLE 4: YOU CAN'T AFFORD TO MISS A PAYCHECK.
SOLUTION: Before you think a week off is out of the question, tally up your PTO and look at your company’s employee handbook. If your employer pays out for unused vacation or sick days, you may have money coming your way that can offset the days off. If not—or if you decide to be super-responsible and put that chunk of change towards savings goals—well, then you might have to shrink your time-off dreams. A week can do wonders, says Ryan, but even a long weekend helps. Can you afford to have your last day be a Wednesday or Thursday, to give yourself four days to recharge? Losing a day or two of pay may be worth the mental break before you dive in on Monday.