I Don’t Know Who Needs to Hear This, But Take the PTO

Long Post Alert!  (But worth the read, ok?!)  I jokingly shared a post in one of our recruiter groups the other day and I was not entirely prepared for the reaction it generated.  It was, in part, because I recruited for 15 years and have spent the last 5 years training and coaching recruiters. But I didn’t realize just how challenging and troubling the topic really was for so many recruiters out there.  


The post read: “IDK who needs to hear this, but take your lunch break, your evenings, your weekends, your holidays, and your PTO.  You agreed to a job in exchange for pay and benefits.  You did not sign up to sell your soul and every moment of your personal time.


One of the first comments I received on my post was, “You guys should do a training on how to take a week of PTO and not be 3 weeks behind when you return to work”.  Truer words have never been spoken.


As a recruiter, the thought of taking more than a long weekend can be excruciating for most because we work REALLY hard to build a desk of honest, trustworthy, loyal, and hardworking healthcare professionals.  We often allow our own self-talk to derail plans for R&R before they’ve ever been made… “If I take more than a Friday-Monday off we battle with the anxiety of, A. if I leave work and turn of my cell phone my entire desk will fall apart, and if I have to keep my cell phone on, I may as well just stay at work. And/or B. If I do leave work and turn off my phone, I can certainly expect to come back to a complete disaster that will take me two weeks to dig out of, so I should just stay at work.”  And we go through this endless cycle until we finally burn out.  Or we take the “vacation”, but we spend it checking our phones the entire time and are never fully present with our friends or family.  


Listen. I get it!!  I purposefully took vacations in places where there was no cell phone reception when I recruited, just so I would be forced NOT to check my phone!!  I learned some valuable lessons about PTO during my many years as a recruiter, and I’d like to share those with you today.  


Now I know that some of you will argue with me and say, “the travelers are out there away from their friends and family, and they rely on their recruiters. And it’s the least we can do to be a phone call away.”  I get it. And I agree 100%.  BUT your recruiters deserve a break.  They deserve time away from work too.  In the same way that travelers need downtime to regroup, your internal employees need that time as well.  


So, recruiters, I’ve put together a list of some things that I think you can do to prepare for any up-and-coming PTO you’re considering.  Or to help you put your mind at ease and request some much-needed PTO.  

  1. Give notice.  Plan in advance so that as you’re talking with your current and prospective travelers, you’re able to share the dates of your upcoming travels. Be sure they know you’ll be unavailable during that time, but that you’ll send them your backups information as time gets closer.  
  2. Find a backup or two.   If you have more than 12-15 travelers working for you, split them between 2 different recruiters.  Please do not expect one recruiter to cover your entire desk.  Give your recruiter a detailed report of your travelers (e.g., where they are working, what their needs are, where they are submitted, where they are looking for jobs if they are looking, etc.).  Also, let your backup recruiter know that you are fully confident in their abilities.  If a traveler needs to be terminated, you’re confident they can handle it.  If a traveler may be interested in a job that opens, you’re confident they can handle it.  If an extension offer becomes available, you’re confident they can handle it.  If you’re not confident, then find another back up.  At the end of the day, the point being, you don’t want to hear from them.  They do not need to call you to get your permission on how to handle anything.  If you work for a small agency, then your manager may have to do the backing up while you’re out.  Make a list and talk them through it.  DO NOT assume anything.  Prepare your backup(s).
  3. Reach out to your AMs and let them know what the plan is in your absence.  Let them know who you have looking for work and who your backup is in case they have any jobs that open that should be pitched to your travelers or candidates.
  4. Reach back out to your travelers or candidates and let them know who your backup is.  Let them know that you trust your back up, that they are wonderful and will take fantastic care of them during your short absence.  Again, remind your traveler that you will only be out of pocket for a few days/weeks and will be unavailable.  
  5. Shut off any job email notifications.  If you can’t shut them off, at least set up folders and filter those emails to folders so you can just delete those folders when you return.  No need to sift through them.  Set your Out of Office auto email and in the email let people know when you’ll return to the office and that it may take a few days to return their email.  You don’t have to get everything done on the first day back!  Also, include your backup recruiter(s) contact information in your out of office reply email so people know who they can reach out to in your absence.  
  6. Next, you’re phone.  Now this part might be a little scary but stick with me.  First, when you head on our vacation, I want you to remove your email from your phone.  I know, I said it was going to be scary.  If you’re someone who does a lot of social media recruiting, I would also recommend removing your social media from your phone.  Be cool, be cool.  You can put them back on when you get back from vacay!  Next, on the text messages…put all of your travelers and co-workers alerts on do not disturb.  Not your whole phone, individuals.  I would honestly tell you to remove text from your phone as well, but I know that’s not practical.  We have kids and family and friends that we still may want to keep in touch with or even be on vacation with, so if we can’t do that, the next best thing is to go in and put individuals on DND.  Again, it’s not forever, it’s just while you’re on vacation.  Yes, you’ll still see the little red dot when you have a message, but you won’t hear your phone go off.  This alone will help.
  7. Finally, breathe.  Take the time.  I know you know this, but you only live once.  You’re in the best years of your life right now.  Work really hard, but please make sure you take time to do something that brings you joy, even for a few days.  Know that when you come back, it may very well be a complete shit-show, but you know what, you can handle it, you’re a freaking recruiter!!


I know it may sound crazy, but at the end of the day, the world is not going to crumble if you take a week or even two off work.  It just won’t.  And if it does, you’re not working with the right people.  Consider it a blessing if a few leave you for taking time off!  Take the appropriate steps in advance to prepare for taking time off and DO IT!!  I promise you won’t regret the time off.  I hope this helps some of you.  I know it won’t completely eliminate your anxiety, but I hope it gives you the push and balance you need to do it!!  Enjoy your summer all!!  Any other tips you’d add that have worked well for you when taking time off?  



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