“So, when can you start?”
If you heard this phrase, then congrats! You got the job!
But think long and hard about your answer.
One of the most stressful things in life is starting a new job. If you need convincing, step back for a moment and consider how you got here. Amid all your other day-to-day obligations, you had to make the tough decision that it was time to move on to a new opportunity. Then, you weeded through a spate of job listings and went through an interview process for one, if not several of them.
Now, you’re facing the stress of telling your soon-to-be former boss you’re leaving, and embarking on a new role in a new place. This is a big deal. Taking some time to clear some mental space so that you’re starting your new position with energy and enthusiasm is going to put the odds of success in your favor.
There are other reasons it’s a good idea to take a bit of time between the end of the old job and the beginning of the new. For starters, it might be a while before you can take a vacation after beginning a new job. There’s no hard-and-fast rule about how soon you can take time off (although some companies do have accrual timelines that dictate when your vacation days are formally banked). But most agree that it’s poor form to walk into a new job and tell them you’ve booked a cruise for the following month. The truth is, vacations invariably put stress on team members who fill the void in your absence. You’re going to want to establish rapport and goodwill first.
You’ll also avoid the whiplash of shifting quickly from one job to another. There’ll be new tasks, a new computer system, new people and new ways of doing things. A breather can help ease the transition.
How to Answer the Start-Date Question
First, remember one important fact: You have the job, which means they want you —and in most cases, they’d like you to start as soon as possible. The employment process is grueling for an employer, too. It’s pretty unlikely they’re going to yank their offer off the table because you want to start a hair over the standard two-weeks-notice period in which most people begin.
Consider negotiating your start date just as you would any other terms of employment; an extra week or two is a reasonable ask. Don’t ask for permission, especially if you’ve already made plans. Maybe you were planning to take a vacation, or maybe you have a spate of daytime doctors’ appointments or family obligations you’d like to get out of the way.
There’s no need to go into tons of detail, explaining that it’s been a long time since you biked Europe, or visited your college roommate or that you want to decompress. (This is your new boss, not your BFF.) Instead, frame it in a way that’s confident and specific, but open just in case there’s a mitigating circumstance (an important conference you should really attend would qualify) that falls before your requested start date. One way of responding: “I’m so excited to hit the ground running on my first day. Starting on the 15th would be really great if that works for you.”
If there is pushback, make the explanation short and sweet: You want to begin your new gig fully present and ready to work hard. It’s tough to argue with that.