Saturday, July 14, 2012

What Happens to a (Vacation) Dream Deferred?*


Clark Griswold: Chemist / Vacation Pro
Happy summer, everyone! This is See Arr Oh, reporting for active duty. While CJ's away, I've been put in charge of curating comments, dusting off all the old posts, and mowing the lawn. 


Since we're talking about summer trips, let me ask you: in today's economy, does anyone still take long holidays? Do you, like a certain Hollywood food chemist, pack up the whole family for a few weeks of adventure?


For me, it's tempting to slide back into the old refrain of "one more experiment." After all, for bench chemists, that's how we've always done it. During summers in undergrad, we're encouraged to join a lab, or perhaps travel for an REU. When grad school starts, advisors and senior grads casually mention that truly devoted grads work straight through the season (not to mention that the NMR gets less traffic in July).


When you hit the job market, the time crunch of your first few projects may cause you to rethink that tropical getaway; I once heard a manager say "Everyone gets vacation, but no one really takes it." 


Readers, what are your summer vacation plans? Do you feel secure enough to drop 'under the radar' for a few weeks? Or will you be manning your post, dreaming of far-off time off?


(*With apologies to Langston Hughes) 

9 comments:

  1. Took a one week vacation, once, during grad school. Otherwise have never done more than extend a weekend. Basically do the same now that I have a real job.

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  2. I just got back from a week-long trip to Europe. I generally take a 7-10 day vacation each year, (starting back in the last year of my postdoc), and a few long weekends.

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  3. I spent a week in Mexico with my family in March. Every year I take a week off and visit family at Christmastime. Outside of that vacations consist of an extra day or two at a scientific meeting. If it's someplace nice and inexpensive the spouse even joins me.

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  4. As a grad student, I usually take a week off at Christmas and a few extended weekends here and there, don't really have the money to go anywhere ridiculous (nor the desire right now).

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  5. I've been "on vacation" (not really) for 48 hours, and it was in about hour 44 that I thought of the Big Looming Problem at work. A good weekend.

    Thanks, SAO.

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  6. I once heard a manager say "Everyone gets vacation, but no one really takes it."

    20 year veteran here. As far as I'm concerned this person is a tool.

    Time off is a way to recharge batteries, spend some time with loved ones/hobbies/projects that you don't have time to do while working full time. You earn your vacation time, and many places don't allow you to carry it over or convert it to cash. I have four weeks of vacation plus a few company roving days. I use them all, without guilt, so do my bosses.

    Read a book, take a day trip, sleep in, go out and experience life outside of your work. There is no-one that is so indispensable that they won't be missed for a week, not even a CEO.

    No-one should ever feel guilty about taking vacation or feel that they can't because of statements like that moron manager above.

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  7. Heartily agree with WCA. I take my full quota of vacation, and so does everyone else I work with. At my previous company (a medium-sized CRO) I sometimes sacrificed vacations because there was no-one else available to work on my project. Do you think that made the slightest bit of difference when the recession came and they were deciding who to let go? Of course not (I was laid off). As WCA says, no-one is indispensable. I doubt if anyone will say on their deathbed "I wish I'd spent more time at work".

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  8. I think I've taken every single vacation day I've accrued since grad school - only took 3 long weekends a year plus stat holidays during school, so to keep the wife happy (and me sane), I make sure to get out and enjoy life. I've worked for two CRO's, and much like Anon@4:46, there was usually push-back about project activities that HAD to be done etc, but I try to get everything wrapped or easily understood before I leave.

    At my current shop (mid-sized pharma), everyone takes their vacation. You get push-back from your manager if it looks as if you're not going to get out. Depending on your rank and level, the sequential length seems to vary (I've seen lab chemists go away for 4 weeks straight, whereas managers and up are usually two weeks or less), but everyone goes.

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  9. Visiting family should not really count as vacations, even if mine live in touristy areas. Several of my vacations in grad school to go back home was to spend time with someone dying and going to a funeral.

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