Dear ATL -
I’m a midlevel associate at a big firm in NY. I haven’t been on a real vacation in 1 year and 43 days, but who’s counting. Back in February I booked a trip to West Africa that I’m scheduled to go on this fall, but I just got news that two of my deals are scheduled to close when I’d be away. The firm will never outright tell me to cancel my trip, so if I voluntarily cancel it, they wouldn’t reimburse me and I’d be out $5,000. But I’m worried that going would be a lousy career move. Any advice?
Out of Africa
Dear Out of Africa -
Like you, most associates believe that there are only two options when it comes to ill-timed vacations: go and be paranoid or cancel and be enraged. But what if there was a way to transform this lose-lose situation into a brilliant career move?
If you decide to cancel your vacation, instead of fantasizing about bringing a gun to work, channel your anger into becoming a martyr. A canceled trip isn’t worth anything unless people know about your heroism, so change your signature to a quote from Heart of Darkness and then send an email announcing that because you’re a “team player,” you’ve canceled the exorbitant trip that you’ve been planning for a mere eight months. Decorate your office with taxidermy gazelle heads as a constant reminder of your sacrifice. If possible, rappel to work.
If you decide to go, a great way to quell your paranoia and manage the damage is by reassuring everyone that you had a miserable time. Partners love a ruined vacation story, so upon your return, scratch your face with Power Point slides and then mention that the trip was terrific, except for the part where you were mauled by a lion. Twice. The note to your file that says “abandoned team during critical deal closing” will now be qualified by “animal attack” and the partnership will be hard pressed to use the vacation against you.
A few years ago I canceled a trip because of work, and I can tell you firsthand that the brownie points I earned by staying were worth less than ten days in Ecuador, and far less than a trip to West Africa. Firms don’t offer associates “vacation days” as a practical joke, and you’re entitled to take them. There is never a good time to take a vacation, and it’s up to you to have the courage not to cancel. Remember, the meek never inherit anything. Except the earth.
Elie weighs in, after the jump.