Monday, July 17, 2000

More time off or more money?

Prospective employers likely to bend to attract desirable worker

By Andrea Kay
        If you had to choose between more money or more paid vacation time, which would you take? If you're like a lot of folks I talk to, you'd go for the time off. The money would be nice, but most say it's time off to be with family or to indulge in a hobby that they'd pick.

        I notice this trend especially when someone is changing jobs. After they're offered a position and the negotiations begin, job hunters are asking for an extra week or two of vacation — even if that's not company policy.

        Traditionally, American employers determine vacation based on how long you've been with the company.

        For example, 82 percent of American employers give at least two weeks vacation to salaried exempt employees after one year, says Hewitt Associates, a management consulting firm.

        After five years, 75 percent offer three weeks.

        Employees around the world seem to have more of what American workers want — in some cases nearly three times more. Vacation time in other countries is often mandated by law, regardless of how long you've been with a company, says Hewitt Associates.

        For example, if you work in Denmark, after one year you're eligible for 31 days of vacation (this is based on a six-day work week).

        Finland and Austria both give 30 days of vacation, based on a six-day work week.

        Only Mexico offers fewer vacation days than the United States — six days after one year of service.

        In most cases, it's only after 15 or more years of service that you are awarded time-off allowances similar to those required in other countries, says Ann Leeds, a Hewitt consultant.

        Some companies now offer a bonus week of vacation when you reach certain milestones. Others let employees buy additional paid vacation days. But even with flexible arrangements, U.S. companies can't compete with these mandated vacation allowances.

        A word to the wise: when you're negotiating for your next position, don't assume that the number of vacation days a company offers is the final word on the subject — even if it's their policy.

        Most employers will bend to get a quality worker. But don't put so much emphasis on the issue that it sounds as if you're more interested in the benefits than the job.

Another needless meeting?
        Feel as if you spend way too much time sitting in meetings where nothing gets done? So do a lot of other people. Nearly eight hours a week is spent in needless formal discussions, say executives in a recent Accountemps poll.

        That's 2.3 months a year.

        Before you call the next meeting:

        • Think about who will offer valuable input or be affected by the discussion and only invite those folks.

        • Think about whether a memo will do.

        • Set a time frame for the meeting and stick to it.

        • Create a specific agenda and send it out in advance so people come prepared.

        • At the end of the meeting summarize who will do what by when.

Working overseas
        Janice G. had strong advice for the executive who wrote me about not wanting to take an international assignment because of his kids.

        “You're making a big mistake,” she says. “We took three teen-agers to France for two years. The first three months were hell.

        “If you survive the culture shock, it will be a fantastic experience. What better way to prepare your kids for the future than to learn a new language and culture?

        “With Americans living all over the world, it won't take long to find a network of friends. My kids and I made lifelong friends. They may hate you for a little while but if you plan trips and give them some freedom, it can work out.

        “Have the guts to go for it.”

Just for executives is a Web site geared to top-level executives. Besides more than 30,000 positions across the United States with links to employers' financial data, recent news, business profiles and Web sites, you'll find monthly profiles with executive recruiters, salary data, advice, news features and career counseling for a fee.

        Career consultant Andrea Kay is the author of Greener Pastures: How To Find a Job In Another Place and Resumes That Will Get You the Job You Want. E-mail


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