Taking Vacation? Its Career Value Is In Your Sound Bite

Nothing is more glorious than time off. When we get hired, our burning question after salary is usually about vacation days. 

That said, it’s been written that Americans often don’t take all their vacation time. In some cases it’s because we: 

  • Don’t want to fall behind
  • Worry that things will go wrong in our absence
  • Are reluctant to delegate
  • Lack confidence in our job security
  • Haven’t developed motivating interests outside of work 

Truth is: We need to take time off. Most of us are exhausted. We need downtime to build ourselves up. 

Vacations as differentiators 

Too often we fail to see how vacations enhance our personal brands at work. If we’re smart, we can use time off to build our image while refreshing ourselves. 

There are all kinds of vacations: 

  • Fun family trips that tighten our bonds with people we love
  • Stay-cations to catch up on domestic chores or launch new projects
  • Tours to historical, cultural, and scenic places here and abroad
  • Adventures to explore new places and challenge ourselves
  • Learning experiences—academic immersion programs, reading vacations, and skill building (gourmet cooking, painting, writing)
  • Hobby pursuits like antiquing, music, and sports
  • Volunteering in the community, for specific causes, and for global impact 

What you say about what you do on vacation contributes to the way your boss and colleagues see you. 

Be selective 

Today’s reality is that our boss and coworkers form opinions about us on the fly based on what we say and do and what others say about us. These bits and pieces of perception impact our brand. 

When it comes to vacations, it’s pretty standard that we’ll be asked these questions: 

  • Where are you going on vacation? (Before)
  • How was your vacation? (After) 

Your best answer is a sound bite. That’s what your coworkers want—a nugget that sums up your time off—something they’ll remember and/or pass along to their colleagues as a “did you know.” 

Each vacation highlight you share builds perceptions about what drives you.

Your vacation “reports” are cumulative. The more they are the same, the less interest and value they command. The more diverse they are, the more fascinating you become. 

Here’s the trick: You don’t have to take amazing, over-the-top vacations to create the buzz you want. You just need to do one thing that’s unique each time that sparks interest, even if it only takes a day or an hour. 

  1. I once worked with a VP who diligently took vacation every year with his young family which was a positive, for sure. However, for 14 consecutive years he took them to Disney World. When asked, “Where are you going on vacation?” he’d always answer, “To see Mickey.” He had an “I resist change” brand which his vacation pattern reinforced. Ulitmately, his career flat-lined. 
  2. I was a commercial horse breeder while I was a corporate manager. I used some of my company vacation time to buy or sell young thoroughbreds or broodmares. When asked about my vacations, I would mention the sales auctions and/or tracks I was going to and how I made out. The fact that I was involved in the horse industry added to my brand as a businesswoman willing to put myself out there. 
  3. A former colleague, deeply committed to animal rescue, spends part of her yearly vacation at the Best Friends Animal Society sanctuary in Utah as a volunteer. Her career continues to rise as someone with great talent willing to give back. 

Parlay your fun 

Vacations are opportunities to enrich ourselves, so we need to extract from them the experiences that fill us out. That’s the part of vacation that becomes the snippets we share at work. 

Vacations give us experiences that broaden our perspectives, make us happy, and remind us what really matters in life. When it’s your time, please take it. 

Photo from jonycunha via Flickr