Jumping from one job to another can be a shock to the system. You’ll have new responsibilities to learn, new co-workers to meet, and a new office dynamic to navigate. Don’t underestimate the importance of this transition. Instead, consider how much time you can afford to take off between gigs and do what you can to maximize it.
Career experts suggest taking a minimum of one week. Even if you can’t afford to jet to a tropical island, your brain will need that time to neutralize the emotional charge (good or bad) from your previous place of business.
In addition to letting go of the old, you’ll want to be prepared for the new. Recent hires are under more scrutiny from their peers and bosses than company veterans. If you wrap up your old job on a Friday and start the new one on Monday, your first day at the office is going to feel like just another day in the grind. To put your best foot forward, the day you start should be one you greet with eager anticipation. That will be easier to do with some time off.
Now that you’re convinced of the benefits of taking time off between jobs (or if you’ve been reading so far saying “duh”), the question becomes how to get it. Here are seven strategies for negotiating some breathing room.
1. Make it Part of the Deal
When you are ready to accept the job, tack on a start date. As in: I’d love to accept this offer and begin working on X date. Pick one that’s as far out as you can swing, even if you don’t expect them to go for it. Putting a date that goes into the next month creates in their mind what negotiation experts call an anchoring effect. You will have locked in the starting point, and all subsequent suggestions will be based on that number. Even if they whittle down your initial request, you will have a cushion to guarantee you have meaningful time off.
2. Don’t Be Afraid to Speak Up
If you need time off, make it clear.
Many people are afraid to appear lazy or apathetic about the new job, but you can avoid that misconception by framing things in a positive light. Explain that you work very hard and will need a week or two off to recharge. Remind them how excited you are to join the team. If you have demonstrated your enthusiasm and work ethic otherwise, you should have no reservations about asking for some extra time before you start.
In a competitive market, your new boss might try to wear you down and ask you to begin ASAP despite your request. Stick to your guns by taking a step back and realizing the power you hold. This company chose you out of all the candidates it interviewed. It wants you to start sooner because it believes you will be a valuable member of the team. You’ve got this in the bag, so don’t be afraid to ask for what you need.
3. Make and Honor a Prior Commitment
Before you even get that job offer, start putting your own offers on the table. Email your BFFs and find out who might be available for a girls’ trip in the next month. Or compare schedules with your significant other and brainstorm the romantic getaway you’ve been putting off. Pencil in something real, and inform your new employer as soon as you get the offer. Explain that you have plans, but that you will be ready to start immediately upon your return.
It’s a rare occasion that you can offer the ones you love the undivided attention that comes from being completely unburdened with work. They deserve it. You can make it happen.
4. Demonstrate the Mutual Benefits
Taking time off between jobs is technically a vacation where your new employer won’t have to foot the bill or worry about coverage while you are out of the office. Experience has taught you how difficult it is to escape once you’ve been integrated as a member of the team, and there are numerous studies that show how important a break is to keeping your mojo.
When they push you to start sooner than you feel comfortable with, remind them this break could be a win-win.
5. Make it Up on the Back End
Two weeks is the customary notice period before you say farewell to your current employer. However, it’s negotiable. Before you even get that new job offer, start organizing your files and making lists of tasks that will need to be handed off. If you have given real thought to how long it will take you to train your interim replacement, you can have a clear plan to pass the baton before your employer is even aware that you’re leaving. When you give notice, show them that you are prepared to stay late and put in the extra hours to get everything done in five to seven business days.
6. Nab a Quick Vacation Early
Sometimes you can’t avoid starting work on a Monday after you’ve wrapped up on Friday, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get time to decompress before your start or end date.
Some employers’ biggest concern will be having you train the replacement—which means they have to find one first. In this case, take time off immediately after giving notice. You’ll come back recharged and ready to train your newly found replacement.
Alternatively, if your new job insists you begin immediately, request a week off after six weeks. That way you’ll have settled into your new role, and you can use this pre-negotiated vacation to process and reflect on the recent changes in your career. In the event you can’t afford any gap in benefit coverage and pay, this situation may even work out even better.
7. When in Doubt, Start Mid-Week
You know how good a short week feels? The beauty of realizing the fourth work day is actually Friday? That’s the feeling you want to capture for your first week on the job: not being completely overwhelmed. The first week can be stressful and emotional, so don’t prolong it. Instead, ask to begin on a Tuesday or Wednesday.
The HR manager at my last job changed the official work policy after I made this unusual request. At first he didn’t get it, but then he realized how it benefited him too. Instead of having to rush in on a Monday morning to train someone on top of the tasks he left on his desk on Friday, he could handle the new intake on a less chaotic day. Another win-win.
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