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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Changing Jobs

The Answer to “When Can I Ask for Vacation Days at a New Job?”

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We all have crazy thoughts when starting a new job: Do I have to tell my boss when I go to the bathroom? Will people think my leftovers are too weird of a lunch? Should I wave when people walk by my desk? No, better to just smile. Never mind, smiling’s creepy, just stare at your computer and don’t make eye contact.

But some of those questions about new job etiquette are actually valid—things like how to act around the office, what to wear, and when it’s respectable to take breaks. After all, they can mean the difference between having an awesome reputation and a horrible one.

One of the biggest questions I had when I first started was when I could take a vacation. Sure, The Muse has an unlimited vacation policy, and my boss never mentioned I needed to wait six months—but I also know that it’s common courtesy when it comes to being the newbie.

To get a few more guidelines, I reached out to HR expert and Muse career coach Arik Orbach.

His response?

The general rule of thumb is likely to wait around three to six months. However, it strongly depends on the organization and their culture.

He went on to explain that many companies clearly dictate what their vacation policy is. Some have you accrue more and more time-off the longer you’re there. Others may have a probationary period for when you’re being trained and must be in the office.

But the reason he suggests that three-to-six-month timeframe is because at the end of the day, it just doesn’t look good to ship off before then. Not to mention, you’re more likely to miss key onboarding information.

That said, a lot of this depends on your performance from the get-go. If you’re not picking things up quickly or still being heavily monitored by your boss, it’s probably not the best time to ask.

But, as Orbach states, “An employee who can hit on all tasks and deadlines and is demonstrating great progress is more apt to being granted time off because they trust you to get the job done no matter what, and they want to keep you happy.”

Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. For example, if you’re getting married three weeks into your new role, your boss is probably not going to decline your request. However, Orbach suggests, it’s better to get these kinds of things squared away before you accept the job offer:

This could also apply to any planned vacations where trips have been prepaid already. Of course, you don’t always have the luxury of knowing ahead of time if something serious comes up that you need to take time off for. If you have a parent become suddenly ill, for example, your manager would likely be understanding, versus let’s say, an impromptu vacation to the Caribbean.

So you’ve read all this and think you’re qualified for some R&R—how do you make the ask?

First, says Orbach, you have to think about the impact your absence will have. You’re not going to make friends with your colleagues if they have to pick up your slack after barely knowing you. So, it’s best to build a good rapport with your team first before putting in the request.

Then, figure out if you can meet all your deadlines before your vacation. If you come to your boss prepared with a timeline for how you’ll get everything done, they’re more likely to say yes.

Finally, consider what you’ll miss while you’re gone. Is this a busy time for your organization? Are there any big meetings happening? If your vacation comes at a tough time for business (and thus leaves your boss and team with a lot of work to do without you), it may be worth putting it off until the slower season.

The last thing I’ll say is that every new employee needs to put in their time. I fully believe in self-care and taking time off for yourself—so if you’re starting to burn out, by all means take a personal day if you can. But it’ll make you look so much better and gain you so much more respect if you show up every day and kick some butt for a few months straight.

I didn’t end up taking a long vacation until I was a year into my role. While I probably could’ve left sooner, the trip was that much more rewarding because I’d truly earned it (and bonus, because I’d built my boss’ trust, she insisted I completely unplug.)

So, long story short, use all your vacation days—it’s good for your career in the long run—just maybe wait a few months before you start. Trust us, it’ll be worth it.