News We Can Use: Have We Become a No-Vacation Nation?

Happy almost Labor Day!

Are you heading off  — or have you already clocked out — for some much needed R&R?  If your answer is “no,” you’re not alone.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans left an estimated 226 million vacation days on the table last year. To put it into perspective — that’s almost $35 billion dollars worth of vacation days that went to waste.

The question is “Why?”.  Were those findings an outgrowth of what has been a challenging economy and very tight workforce? Are people just too overworked to take time off?  Do they not feel supported in using those days? If they do hit the road, did they feel the need to remain connected?

Some of those answers are featured in this great infographic created by Column Five Media for Rasmussen College.

But it made us curious: Will we see the same kind of numbers this year?

Help us out and take our quick survey and tell us how you spent YOUR summer vacation: 

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/MFL95VS.

We’ll post the results next week.

In the meantime, in honor of this holiday season, we pulled together some top tips to help you stay in vacation mode — at least through the weekend:

  • Don’t check your email. The good news is that most people are off, so people should not be expecting a quick turnaround for messages.  Set an out of office message and plan to get back to people on Tuesday.
  • Step away from the phone. Are you guilty of spending more time with your mobile device (or computer) than you do with your actual friends and family?  This holiday, put down the phone and focus on play time. (To lessen the temptation: Change that setting on the phone so it doesn’t ping every time a message is delivered.)
  • Find a place with little to no connectivity.  Nothing like going off the grid for some peace and quiet.
 How are you spending this holiday weekend?  Tell us here, on Facebook or Twitter.

Should the Holiday be Renamed Non-Labor Day?

This Labor Day, there’s not much to celebrate. According to a recent piece on Business Insider, which compiled alarming stats from various sources, there was zero job growth in the past decade — the worst 10 years on record — and two million people have exhausted 99 weeks of unemployment benefits, while another four million will do so by the end of this year. What’s up, America? How is it that the job picture continues to get grimmer and grimmer?

As co-authors of Be Your Own Best Publicist: How to Use PR Techniques to Get Noticed, Hired and Rewarded at Work, we offer career advice to people at all levels through our book, as well as speaking engagements, coaching sessions and workshops, on how to land that dream job or client — or move up in your current position — by making yourself invaluable, unique and indispensable. But when the job market just keeps getting bleaker, how can you focus on the positive? How do you keep your confidence in tact when you’ve been pounding the pavement for months with no end in sight? How do you avoid letting the fear of losing business, staff or — worse — your job stand in the way of your success? In honor of Labor Day, here’s some hopeful advice and wishful thinking that the job market will rebound by this time next year:

1) It’s all in the spin: When you leave a job, lose a job, or can’t find one, think about yourself as self-employed versus unemployed. If you position yourself to the market as a freelancer or independent contractor, you’ll come across as more confident and likely more employable. Even better, rather than just collect unemployment and send out resumes, try to pitch yourself for freelance work — many companies who have had to cut full-time staff must now rely on less expensive outside contractors whose benefits and insurance they don’t have to cover.

2) Demonstrate value: Okay, so we thought we would never experience what we went through in 2009, with budget and job cuts across the board, but unfortunately we’re dealing with a potential double-dip recession. However, if you still have your job, be thankful and, what’s more, make sure you’re showing value to your company so that when they do have to evaluate headcount and performance, you’ll be the one they simply can’t do without.

3) Stay on the circuit: If you’ve been out of work for a while, don’t give up and sit at home wallowing. Even if you are happily employed, you must continue to connect with as many people as possible.  In fact, studies show that 80 percent of senior level jobs are filled with personal connections, so keep in mind that the bigger your circle, the more job leads you’ll get. Go to networking events, schedule informational interviews with folks in your industry, book coffee dates with anyone you think can help you and connect with people on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

4) Don’t get defeated: Even in challenging times, the best people — the ones who make a positive impact and stand out in a unique way — will ultimately get hired and promoted. While this Labor Day may be overshadowed by our high unemployment rate in the U.S., hopefully it will also serve as a catalyst to get Americans back into the workforce. Some of that will be up to the government, but some of it will be up to you and how well you leverage your skills, talents and connections.

How are you staying upbeat in a tough job market? Share with us here, on Facebook or Twitter (@bestpublicist).