A reader writes:
I find myself in a really tight position here. I am going to an interview tomorrow for a job that I would really like. However, in less than a month I’m going on a pre-planned family visit in China for a little over a month (May 21 to Jun 29). It is nerve wracking because I do not expect things to happen so close to each other.
I already have a job where they say they will be happy to keep me. So even if they do not hire me I am not going to be jobless. But I really want to get a job that is more in line with my degree.
I am really irritated right now and I hope you can help me out a little.
Don't be irritated. The situation is just going to (maybe) require you to make a clear choice between what's more important to you: the trip or the job.
Now, if the trip were a week or two, it would likely be a non-issue. But given how long it is, you're right to be prepared for it to give them pause. Of course, it depends on how long they take to make a decision too; the longer it takes, the safer your trip gets. Most employers are willing to wait a month for the right person to start and sometimes a bit longer.
In any case, here's what to do:
1. Go on the interview. Don't mention the trip; you don't need to give them a reason to discard you at this stage.
2. After the interview, start figuring out whether or not you even want the job (you never want to decide you do before you've ever interviewed anyway; that's like deciding you want to marry someone hot you see on the street and have never spoken to). And if you do want the job, do you want it enough to either cancel your trip or shorten it, should it come to that?
3. If you get a job offer and you want to accept it, explain that you're in a bind because of this pre-planned trip. And if you're willing, tell them you're willing to shorten the trip and negotiate to see how far out you can push the start date.
But ultimately this is going to require you to be really clear in your own head about what you want more. And clarity isn't such a bad thing.
[By the way, if they haven't made a decision by mid-May, let them know you're going out of the country on May 21 but will be checking email (you'll be checking email, right?) so they can reach you.]