I’m part of the 2 percent. I work for the tiny fraction of U.S. companies that offer unlimited paid time off (PTO). That’s right, I get to watch The Price Is Right live as much as I want! Or something like that.
Are you jealous? Don’t be. You’re probably taking more vacation than I am — because workers under traditional use-it-or-lose-it policies usually take off more time than we 2 percenters.
At every organization, regardless of PTO policy, people feel reluctant to take days off. One study showed that 41 percent of Americans don’t take any vacation days at all. At. All.
Is that you? Are you someone who thinks your company is overpaying you so you choose to reject part of your compensation? (That’s what PTO is, after all.) Or do you fear that work will build up? (Don’t worry. Your plate will be full no matter what you can’t accomplish today, tomorrow, and many tomorrows after.) Or maybe you think your department will collapse if you’re not there for a few weeks? (The whole company, probably. Maybe even the country. The planet.) Or do you simply agonize over the optics of potentially taking off too many days? (Whatever “too many” means.)
The last concern is especially relevant under an unlimited PTO plan. At my company, I’m told that, really, no really, no but for real, really, people may take PTO as they wish. That’s why, after starting my job this past June, I’ll be taking the next six months off.
No I won’t. Because I can’t. (Can I? Boss, you reading this?) Obviously, truly unlimited is truly impossible, but that’s beside the point — because this has nothing to do with policy and everything do with branding.
Unlimited PTO is a corporate cultural value disguised as a benefit. It’s less about giving people freedom to take vacation days and more about branding an employer as progressive and humane. It’s a stance that implicitly conveys that the business treats adults like adults by empowering people to balance work and life. It’s a marketing ploy to attract candidates.
Does that sound crass? Cynical?
Maybe, but there’s nothing wrong with using a perk to brand yourself as an employer of choice. There is, however, something wrong when a policy is on paper only. So if you’re going to offer unlimited PTO, here’s the LiberGuide to doing it right:
Do Not Track
Don’t calculate how many days your people take off. I know, I know, you think you need these details, but for what? Don’t you have enough big data that you don’t know how to or plan to use?
Information is only important as you make it. Choosing not to measure PTO tells workers that you’re not judging your people based on time they take off. It also helps cut down on paranoia by discouraging people from benchmarking their PTO against their colleagues’.
OK, but what if people abuse your policy?
Except, what does it mean to abuse unlimited PTO? I’ll tell you what it does not mean: taking off too many days. Companies should judge people against meeting reasonable quality and quantity of work expectations, particularly since we all know that showing up for work doesn’t mean you’re necessarily doing any.
The key word above is reasonable. If workload demands or cultural expectations necessarily prevent employees from taking PTO, then you best believe your employees will let everyone know on Glassdoor. (So much for your branding trick.)
Finally, and most importantly, force people to stay away from work by creating a minimum PTO policy. Tell your people that they must take two or three weeks off per year, and make sure they do it. (This is your only excuse for breaking the do-not-track rule, and even then, you needn’t keep tabs beyond the minimum days.)
A minimum PTO policy is a great way to let your people know that you want them to relax and recharge and have a life outside of work. (And, by the way, you don’t need unlimited PTO to have minimum PTO.)
All that said, I’m not naive. I know that unlimited PTO is a lie at many organizations. But it doesn’t have to be.
What’s the best part about being out of work?
When you’re no longer out of work. Obviously, getting hired was the highpoint of my recent job search. That aside, throughout my journey from unemployment to becoming Texas’ newest cowboy, I went through a range of experiences, some great, most mediocre, some far from great, and one that shocked me so much—and really, almost nothing surprises me since Nov. 8, 2016—that I can barely talk about it to this day.
Who am I kidding? I love talking about it!
I love talking about a whole bunch of things that happened to me as I zigzagged through a process that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. (Who am I kidding? Of course I would!)
I could go on and on about the highs and the lows of my unemployment escapade, but instead, let me tell you about a couple of incidents at both extremes. Continue reading
Now this is the story all about how my life got flipped, turned upside down. And I’d like to take a minute. Just sit right there. I’ll tell you how I got a job, with a bit of flair.
But before I begin, I recognize that it’s been seven hours and fifteen days since I blogged last (sorry, couldn’t resist another song reference). I hate myself even more than usual for neglecting my tens of fans for so long, so I promise to try to inform, provoke, and entertain more regularly.
With that half-apology out of the way, you guys, omigod, I got a new job!
Of course, lots of people write about how they landed a new role to encourage job-seekers brag: “Look at me, everybody! My dreams came true! And yours will, too…if you do exactly as I did.”
All this Oprah-fied pseudo-inspirational babble rarely cites the most important skill to score a job—because it isn’t a skill at all. And since it isn’t an actual ability, then everything else this slew of swaggerers spews resembles nothing more than gloating for clicks.
So, what is this essential non-skill skill that you need to win a new job? Continue reading
I have a friend who’s looking for a job. For real, a friend. Not a “friend.” While I’m also currently searching for new work, this isn’t an after-school special in which we all know the real identity of the “friend.” But like the moral tales you sometimes watched when you got home from class, this story also offers a valuable lesson.
What I’m about to describe is every candidate’s worst nightmare. It’s something that lots of people wonder: Does this actually happen? It happens. Sometimes like this:
My friend Steve* (of course there’s an asterisk) was recently offered a job at America’s Most Disorganized Employer* (there it is again!). He was eager to accept it, except the offer letter lacked enough details. Beyond salary, it mentioned little else. Clearly, a red flag demonstrating a sloppy hiring process or total ignorance about what candidates value, or both.
So Steve did what every candidate should in such situations. He contacted the hiring manager for more information. That’s when he learned that America’s Most Disorganized Employer allows only 10 days for PTO, including sick days. But who cares. Is there free soda? A ping-pong table?
Nothing like companies offering stupid, meaningless perks to try to hide an unwillingness to recognize that people have lives outside the workplace, right? The best talent such firms can hope to lure are job-seekers desperate for work.
Steve was one of those people. He was planning to ultimately accept any offer, but again, he did what every candidate should. He negotiated for more money and more time off, to which the hiring manager replied, “There’s wiggle room.”
No there wasn’t. Continue reading
Many years ago, I got a call from A&E’s Biography magazine. I’d applied for an entry-level editorial job, so upon answering the phone, I was excited. “Yes, this is Vadim!”
“OK, I just wanted to check. Thank you,” said the caller.
“Oh, OK,” I replied.
She continued: “I was curious if you were a real person. Your resume was”—after a contrived pause—“interesting.”
“Interesting good or interesting bad?” I asked.
“Umm”—more silence to stir drama—”interesting bad.”
The conversation ended and I thought two things: (1) That call didn’t go as planned. (2) That worked out as planned.
A New Serif in Town
Let me explain: I’m thinking of this story because I’m once again looking for work. The other night, I spent hours researching fonts to use on my résumé. I discovered that Times New Roman is the sweatpants of fonts and conveys laziness (that’s me!), so I should instead choose a sans-serif typeface like Helvetica because it will show that I’m forward-thinking (hey, that’s me, too!). Except, I do love a good serif! But would picking one highlight my stupidity? Don’t I know that all those little hooks appended to letters can cause electronic scanners to misread a résumé? Maybe I should listen to my friend who suggests Futura because it’s gorgeous (totally me!). But crap, Microsoft Word doesn’t include that font, but there’s another one I like, but it’s too big, while another is too small, and yet another is—
Who am I? Goldilocks? And is it really 3:30 am? What the hell am I doing?
I knew exactly what I was doing. I was experiencing what every job-seeker feels at some point—insecurity. What if my résumé (which you may view here) turns off a lot of employers? It’s already a bit quirky, at least by HR standards. What if no one will hire the weirdo who also decided to dress his résumé in sweatpants? Continue reading
I’m currently unemployed, so like most people without a job, I wake up each morning, grab my laptop, plop down on the toilet, and trawl through bookmarked job sites. Sometimes I’ll remember to pee.
Either way, my day begins with a lot of shit. The job postings, I mean.
There is so much that is so wrong with how most companies throw together employment ads. You can imagine some HR woman—of course it’s a woman!—writing an ad, struggling to find the right words for the 14th bullet point. After staring at her screen for an hour, it finally hits her! Her normally abnormally pursed lips broaden into a wide smile; her eyes dance in delight. “You go, girl!” she whispers to herself, flinging back her hair as if in a Pantene commercial, and feverishly taps those keys:
- Must be proficient in Microsoft Word
I feel bad for her, and her employer, but mainly, I feel bad for myself. No one should have to start a day this way.
I recently stumbled upon this bullet-less Craigslist ad, which began:
Are you a writer with intermediate to advanced writing skills?
You know it! I have a blog!
Can you convey your thoughts about the positive aspects of a consumer product?
I’m a miserable person who feigns happiness daily. Sure!
If you answered yes, you are a perfect candidate for a task that can be repeated unlimited times as opportunities surface. Our marketing agency handles online reputation for many large brands offering consumer goods. If you feel comfortable writing about products on consumer shopping portals, please contact us for more information. Most work takes less than 15 minutes to complete and pay is up to $30. Must have a Paypal account to accept payment.
I already had my suspicions, but I figured, what the hell? I fired off an enthusiastic email highlighting my commitment to
potentially earning $120/hour creating great copy.
Here was the reply: Continue reading