Now that Thanksgiving is almost upon us, some of you may already be thinking ahead to the winter holiday season. That’s precisely what you should be doing if you want to take more time off than just your firm’s designated holiday days. For some associates, the holidays are a good time to use your vacation days, but you will need to plan ahead if you want your vacation to be a real break from work.
1. Give as much advance notice as possible. If you haven’t done so already, now is a good time to tell your partners and the teams you are working on when you are planning to take a vacation. That way, they can tell you whether your planned vacation will conflict with any major deadlines or events, in which case your teams have time to make other arrangements in your absence, or you have time to adjust your vacation schedule.
2. Follow up with a reminder. If you’ve given advance notice about your vacation, you’ve done only half your job. Make sure to remind your teams of the dates you will be out of the office shortly before you leave for vacation. The only thing worse than being the unlucky recipient of a partner’s frantic phone call on Christmas Eve about an emergency assignment is getting on a partner’s bad side by explaining that you can’t do it because, “Remember? I told you that I’d be on vacation like a month ago.”
3. Be prepared to work harder in the weeks leading up to your vacation. Even the partners who tell associates that they deserve a break aren’t going to be too thrilled when those same associates actually decide to go on a vacation. And the last thing you want to do right before you take your vacation is to give the impression that you are just blowing off assignments so someone else can pick up the slack for you while you’re away. So in the weeks prior to your vacation, be willing to stay late to complete your short-term assignments and tie up loose ends. If you’re not able to finish everything, do as much as you possibly can, and then update your partners and teams with the status of your assignments before you leave. If necessary, find someone to cover for you in your absence, and then notify your partners and teams regarding whom they can contact while you’re away.
4. Be communicative. Let’s face it, your chances of having a completely BlackBerry-free vacation are slim to none. There are very few places in the world you can go where you are not accessible via email or phone, so make sure you tell your partners and teams how they can get in touch with you if they absolutely need you. It also wouldn’t hurt to check in once in a while, especially if you bailed on your teams during a particularly busy time. Worst case scenario is that you end up doing some work on your vacation, but at least no one is expecting you to be slaving away at the office.
5. Show your gratitude. When you get back from your vacation, make sure to thank those who covered for you or who made it easier for you to take time off. A small gift would be fitting for a secretary or paralegal as a token of your appreciation. If a fellow associate covered for you, let him or her know that you are willing and available to return the favor when he or she decides to take a vacation.