going on vacation during a job search

A reader writes:

My current (temp) job is ending in a week. I have the good fortune of having enough saved up that I don’t need to worry for several months, and I’d been hoping to take 2-4 weeks to travel and unwind. My trouble is, I haven’t found a new job yet, and I’m getting scared that if a good opportunity comes up while I’m away, I won’t be available for an interview. This area isn’t lacking for jobs, but it is lacking for ones that I’d be a great fit for and could build a career out of.

I still haven’t scheduled flights or anything since I’m not sure what to do. Should I line up a job before vacationing? Can I apply, leave, and then let any callbacks know I’ll be back in a couple of weeks? Should I mention in a cover letter that I’m out? Do companies generally toss your resume once they find out you can’t interview for a while? Or should I just enjoy myself and deal with job hunting afterward?

My instinct is to hop on a plane and worry about jobs once I get back, but I’d appreciate your opinion.

The biggest factor here is your financial situation and how quickly you need to find a job.

You say you don’t need to worry “for several months,” but many job searches these days are taking far longer than that. What happens if you come back from vacation, job search for a few months, and still don’t have a job? You’ll need to factor in how long you can support yourself without work. If you can live for a year without working, then delaying your search by 2-4 weeks isn’t likely to matter. But if you only have a few months’ worth of living expenses saved, using one-third of that time vacationing probably isn’t wise.

Regarding the concern about companies that contact you while you’re away:  Different companies move at different speeds. An employer you apply with today might contact you for an interview tomorrow, or you might not hear from them for two months.

As for being able to just explain you’re away for a few weeks, once you’re invited to interview, most companies don’t have a lot of flexibility on their timeline; if they’re doing interviews during a specific week, that’s when they’ll expect you to be available. You might be able to delay by a week, but it’s often harder to delay longer than that. Some employers do have more flexibility, but that’s less common. The more senior the jobs you’re applying for, and the more sought-after and hard-to-find your skill set is, the more flexibility you can ask for. But if you’re one in a sea of well-qualified candidates, they’re probably not going to hold up their hiring process to wait for you to return.

What all that means is that if you’re going to go away for 2-4 weeks during a job search, you need to be comfortable with the prospect that you’ll lose your chance at a particular job if you’re invited for an interview and aren’t available. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that — unless your financial situation is tight enough that you can’t take that risk.

And in this job market, with some job searches taking a year or more, you want to make that calculation really carefully. If you’re still unemployed in March, are you going to regret taking the vacation?

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