MONEY Workplace

H&M’s Very Un-American Vacation Policy

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European-style vacation makes inroads.

Fast-fashion retail giant H&M launched its first national recruiting campaign on Thursday, hoping to attract thousands of new employees to help it open 61 U.S. stores this year. The bait the company is using to net these new workers: a higher-than-minimum-wage salary and distinctly non-American benefits package.

While the hourly pay—about $12 for full-time employees— is more in line with that of its retail competitors, it’s the vacation policy that betray’s H&M’s roots as a European company. Full-time employees start with up to three weeks of paid vacation per year, with the opportunity to earn up to five weeks’ vacation, plus seven paid sick days and six paid holidays, and your birthday off.

Unlike European countries, which require employers to give workers at least 20 days of paid vacation each year, “the U.S. is the only advanced economy in the world that does not guarantee its workers paid vacation,” according to a report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

Austria and Portugal, for example, legally require employers to give workers 22 days of paid vacation time and 13 paid holidays. Sweden, the birthplace of H&M, offers 25 days, and Australia and New Zealand both grant at least 20 vacation days per year to their citizens.

Some countries go even further—France gives its citizens 30 paid vacation days and one holiday, while the United Kingdom mandates 28 days for its workers. Even our close neighbor Canada grants every worker 10 paid vacation days and 9 paid holidays.

If you include legally mandated paid holidays, the gap between the U.S. and the rest of the world becomes even more pronounced. Most of the wealthiest nations guarantee at least six paid calendar holidays per year. The U.S. and Japan alone offer none.

The average private sector worker in the United States receives 10 days of paid vacation and six paid holidays per year. Nearly 25% of U.S. workers have no paid vacation or paid holidays at all.

Only half of low-wage workers have any paid vacation, compared with 90% of high wage workers. Those low-wage workers who do receive vacation benefits typically get nine paid vacation days each year, vs. 16 days for high-wage workers. If you compare across all workers, the average for low-wage workers drops to four days and 14 days for high-wage workers.

So while it’s great that individual companies like H&M have decided to offer employees more competitive compensation packages, perhaps it’s time for the U.S. as a whole to join our economic peers and give workers a much-needed paid break.

MONEY Shopping

H&M Tries Luring New Workers With Fat Benefits

Low-price fashion retailer H&M is aggressively recruiting employees, offering up to five weeks paid vacation.

MONEY Careers

Should I Ask About Maternity Leave During a Job Interview?

Robert A. Di Ieso, Jr.

Q: I am interviewing for a new job. I hope to start a family soon. When is it ok to ask about a company’s maternity leave policy?

A: Family leave policies have been getting a lot of attention lately, especially because of a new proposal by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus. In a speech in Annapolis Wednesday, Mabus unveiled a host of initiatives to improve quality of life for sailors and Marines, including doubling the amount of paid maternity leave from six weeks to 12 weeks in a bid to attract more women to the services.

But growing awareness of the issue doesn’t change the fact that it’s a tricky one to raise when you’re trying to land a new position.

First of all, it’s generally not a good idea to ask about benefits—any benefits—during your initial job interview, says Rose Stanley, senior practice leader for WorldatWork, an association of human resource professionals. If you want the job, your entire focus should be on convincing the would-be employer that you’re the best candidate. “The hiring manger wants to know why you want the job and what you bring to the table,” says Stanley, “not talk about what’s in it for you.” In general, save questions about benefits and other company perks for later in the interview process, or even for after you get an offer.

But, of course, asking about maternity leave is an especially tricky case because, unlike 401(k) plans and health insurance, using this benefit involves an extended absence from the office. It’s long been illegal to fire pregnant women or otherwise discriminate against them thanks to the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) passed in 1978. And last year the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission updated its guidelines by, among other things, clarifying that a company cannot refuse to hire a woman because she is pregnant or may become pregnant in the future. (If you think that’s the reason you aren’t hired for a job, you can file a complaint with the EEOC.)

Not even these legal safeguards, however, can guarantee that a potential leave won’t (consciously or unconsciously) count against you. That kind of discrimination, after all, is difficult, time consuming, and costly to prove. So if maternity leave is an important issue for you, do all you can to learn about a company’s leave policies even before you go for an interview.

Start by knowing the rules by which every company must abide. Unfortunately, compared to other countries, the U.S. does not guarantee much in the way of paid time off for new parents. But the federal Family and Medical Leave Act does entitle eligible U.S. employees to 12 weeks of family unpaid leave during any 12-month period, after which they are entitled to get their job back. (To be eligible, you have to have worked at the company for at least 12 months and at a location where the company employs 50 or more employees within 75 miles.) Some states, meanwhile, guarantee even more parental leave rights; California, for example, mandates paid leave.

Some private companies do offer new parents paid time off, usually through a combination of short-term disability, sick leave, vacation time, and personal days. A good place to start inquiring is the careers pages of the corporate website, where many companies proudly tout their benefits. If that isn’t the case, you can try using your network to contact people who work at the company and who may be able to enlighten you about its policies.

Then there are external sources. Some job sites such as Glassdoor provide details about corporate perks and benefits. Working Mother publishes a list of the 100 best companies for working mothers. And Care.com has a list of companies with the best family leave.

Even if you can’t find detailed info about your target company, it’s worth collecting benefits information about other companies in the same industry and local companies of around the same size. If you end up with an offer, you can use what you find as a benchmark for negotiations. Good luck!

 

MONEY Ethics

Help! Should I leverage offers from recruiters to ask for a raise?

Here's your chance to give advice in the pages of MONEY magazine.

Did you ever want to be a personal-finance advice columnist? Well, here’s your chance.

In MONEY’s “Readers to the Rescue” department, we publish questions from readers seeking help with sticky financial situations, along with advice from other readers on how to solve those problems. Here’s our latest reader question:

Is it OK to use recruitment offers to push for a raise even if I don’t want to leave my current job and know my company can’t afford to pay me more right now?

 

MONEY Careers

Elon Musk Denies Scolding New Parent for Missing Meeting

A new biography claims Elon Musk criticized an employee who missed a work event to witness the birth of his child. The man behind Tesla and SpaceX says it never happened.

MONEY financial advisers

A Good Financial Planner Is Like This Year’s Hot Pitching Prospect

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Nick Turchiaro—USA Today Sports/Reuters Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Daniel Norris throws a pitch during first inning in a game against the Atlanta Braves at Rogers Centre.

Like the Blue Jays' Daniel Norris, a good financial planner is true to him- or herself.

“Stop asking questions, Maurer, and do what I tell you to do,” said the general agent for the Baltimore region of a major life insurance company.

At the time, early in my career, I was sure this guy watched Glengarry Glen Ross every morning before work. His lines were a little different, but they were no less rehearsed.

“I made over a million dollars last year!”

“I buy a new Cadillac every two years — cash on the barrelhead.”

I was told how to dress: Dark suits, white shirts, and “power ties” that weren’t too busy. Light blue shirts were allowed on Wednesdays. Never wear sweat pants, even to the gym. Enter and exit the gym in a suit. Your hair should never touch your ears or your neck. Facial hair was strictly forbidden. Jeans, outlawed.

When you have a “big fish on the hook,” invite them to the Oregon Grille, one of the nicer restaurants in the rolling horse country north of Baltimore. Get there a half-hour early and tell the maître d’ your name so that he can use it when you return shortly with your guest. Ask where you’ll be seated and pre-greet your waiter. Also let him know your name — along with your “regular” drink, so that you can ask for it momentarily.

As one in a class of newly minted “financial advisers,” who was I to argue with this six-foot-five collegiate lineman as he passionately outlined his method of perception manipulation? Who was I to argue with a million-dollar income and cash on the barrelhead?

Who was I to be original in a world that ranked sales and profit above, well, everything? Who was I to be myself?

This is the old school, and, thankfully, a new school is emerging. The new school doesn’t eschew teamwork, but it questions uniformity. The new school doesn’t worship individuality, but it also doesn’t fear personality. The new school isn’t anti-profit, but it refuses to elevate sales above the personhood of the advisor or the best interest of the client.

While the old school is proprietary and exclusive, the new school is open-sourced and inclusive. The old school insists while the new school nudges. The old school deflects questions and denies suggestions for improvement while the new school welcomes both.

The old school crafts a narrative to which it requires conformity. The new school sees the benefit in allowing advisers to tell their own story and attract the clients who resonate with it.

The financial services industry is not the only realm where this is true. Insistence on conformity may be even more evident in professional baseball, where one of the MLB’s most promising young pitchers is putting convention to the test.

Daniel Norris is a 22-year-old surfer dude who lives in a WalMart parking lot. His ride, a 1978 Volkswagen Westfalia, doubles as his residence. His manner and method might cause any prospective employer to hesitate before bringing him into the fold. But his ability to mow down major league batters with a fastball consistently in the mid-90s earned him a $2 million signing bonus and a spot on the Toronto Blue Jays’ roster. Of course, he’s instructed his agent to limit his allowance to only $10,000. Per year.

Here are three reasons why nonconformity is working for Daniel Norris and could also work for you:

1. He’s authentic. He’s not being different just for the sake of being different. He’s not rebelling against convention as much as he’s being true to himself and his values.

The point isn’t to not be everyone else, but to be yourself. This means that if dark suits, white shirts, power ties and Cadillacs are your thing, that’s what you should wear and drive. But if you prefer no ties—or bow ties—and Levi’s, well, you get the idea.

2. He’s a great teammate. There are certainly players who’ve questioned his unorthodoxy, but no one questions his dedication. “He’s in great shape. He competes on the mound,” says Blue Jays assistant general manager Tony LaCava. “He has great values, and they’re working for him.” And for Toronto.

Being yourself doesn’t mean being on an island. Some, like Norris, might thrive off of extended periods of solitude, but our greatest work often complements and affirms the great work of others.

3. He’s good. Really stinkin’ good. His 11.8 “strikeouts per nine innings” ratio was the best in the minors last season, according to ESPN. And he’s competing for a starting role in the majors ahead of schedule. If Norris were just another dude living down by the river in an old VW bus, we’d never have known about it. That he throws a 96-mile-an-hour fastball low in the strike zone — while doing so in a way that is true to his values — is what makes him special.

If you do things differently, especially in the financial industry, you may well encounter some resistance. You’ll likely have to work harder to prove yourself. But if you do so with a high degree of excellence, you’ll earn the respect of your peers.

There are a growing number of financial advisers who have diverted from the conventional path, and to good effect.

Carl Richards drew criticism from many in the industry when he confessed his greatest financial sin, but a willingness to acknowledge his imperfection endeared him to those skeptical of the industry’s propaganda campaign regarding adviser infallibility (read: everyone).

Carolyn McClanahan gave up her career as a medical doctor when she failed to find a financial adviser who would focus on her as much as her investments. She went back to school and started a planning firm that centers on clients’ values and goals. She’s also become a recognized expert in all things money and medicine.

Recognizing the dearth of women in the advisory realm, Manisha Thakor seems to personify much that the field is lacking, this imbalance considered. Manisha became an industry thought leader, a voice for women advisors and clients.

Michael Kitces is, at heart, a nerd. He struggled with individual client interaction, but turned his passion for education and teaching into a thriving business as the adviser to advisers. “To do anything other than what I do, given my story, would feel like a violation of myself and who I am,” he told me.

How might your life and work look different if you took the same conviction to heart?

Financial planner, speaker, and author Tim Maurer, is a wealth adviser at Buckingham Asset Management and the director of personal finance for the BAM Alliance. A certified financial planner practitioner working with individuals, families and organizations, he also educates at private events and via TV, radio, print, and online media. “Personal finance is more personal than it is finance” is the central theme that drives his writing and speaking.

MONEY job search

Fortune 500 or Startup? How to Tell What Size Company is Right for You

what size company to work for
Craig Roberts—Gallery Stock

These are the six factors to consider when looking for your next gig, says career coach Caroline Ceniza-Levine.

Size matters when it comes to finding a place to work that supports your career goals.

Of course, both big and small firms have advantages and disadvantages. A Fortune 500 company may have thousands of employees and monstrous bureaucracy, but great benefits and a lot of room for growth. On the other hand, at a start-up, the risks are higher, but the executive team knows the junior staff by name, you may have a chance to get a broader experience set, and you could be on the ground floor of tomorrow’s success story.

What’s tricky is that while company size does influence your career path, day-to-day role, and work environment, it isn’t the only factor.

And the generalizations above are not always true. A big company isn’t necessarily bureaucratic—it might have retained a collaborative, entrepreneurial culture. A small company isn’t inherently risky—maybe they offer you an upfront guarantee or they recently got funded.

Here are six career planning considerations that are influenced by size, and the pros and cons of small and large employers:

What Kinds of Resources Are Available

In general, big companies will have more resources.

This could mean more or better office supplies and equipment, professional development and training, benefits and pay, and a more comfortable work environment. This also means resources for your particular job—budget, direct reports, administrative support.

That said, it’s not necessarily true that small companies will have less (and big companies might be able to do more but be stingy), so try to get information about this during the hiring process. Ask pointed questions about, say, what your budget would be on certain projects, and do some research on sites like Glassdoor and using second- and third-degree LinkedIn connections who work or have worked at the company to find out the inside scoop.

What the Breadth of Your Responsibilities Will Be

Since big companies have more staff, it’s more likely the staff will have a more tightly defined (read: smaller) scope of responsibilities. This is a good thing if you want that structure.

But if you want variety and a chance to work across functions or touch a project from start to finish, a smaller company might be a better fit.

Again, size influences your scope but doesn’t determine it 100%. When you are interviewing, ask don’t assume what your responsibilities will be, whom you will be interacting with, and what decision-making authority you will have.

What Prospects for Advancement You’ll Have

Bigger companies have larger infrastructure, perhaps even more locations or industry areas where business is conducted. This typically means you have greater potential for internal mobility—the chance to move from the New York office to the London office, from serving financial services clients to media clients, from working in sales to working in marketing.

That said, small companies offer advancement via upward mobility. You take on more responsibility because you have to. While the small company may not have a London office to send you to, you may be asked to open one.

As you can see, big and small companies offer advancement opportunity. Ask about career growth specifically when you interview.

How Outsiders Will Perceive You

Small companies are typically less well-known than bigger companies. A brand name does convey advantages in introductions or on a résumé: When people glance at your C.V. and see you’re coming from Goldman Sachs (as opposed to Boutique Bank WHO?), they know what they’re dealing with.

That said, branding is more than a name. Some people hear big company and assume slow and not innovative.

And if your personal brand hinges on being seen as leading-edge or entrepreneurial, then a smaller company will be more consistent with your brand.

In addition, a company might be small but have big name clients. If you work for a small company that serves the Fortune 500 or other brand names, naming the clients is a way for you to get that pedigree on your résumé or in your pitch.

How Well You’ll Be Paid

Big companies can afford to pay more, but they might feel like they don’t have to because of their brand names and better resources.

Small companies might be limited on base salary but might offer equity participation or profit-sharing.

Compensation is tough to generalize. Don’t undersell yourself to a small company by assuming you need to take less. Don’t get overly aggressive with a big company and automatically negotiate for the top end of your range.

What Networking Opportunities You’ll Have

Big companies offer you more people to connect with, but those people are more dispersed, and you will have to be more proactive about reaching out.

Small companies offer fewer people to add to your network but it may be easier to get to know people and therefore build deeper connections.

As you interview, recognize there are advantages and disadvantages at both ends of the size spectrum. Focus on your day-to-day colleagues, senior leadership, and overall culture and how all of these fit with you, regardless of size.

Caroline Ceniza-Levine is co-founder of SixFigureStart® career coaching. She has worked with professionals from American Express, Condé Nast, Gilt, Goldman Sachs, Google, McKinsey, and other leading firms. She’s also a stand-up comic.

Read more from Caroline Ceniza-Levine:

MONEY College

Unsolicited Advice for the Class of 2015

150508_EM_AdviceforGrads
Dorann Weber—Getty Images

Tips for graduates about to enter the workplace.

More than a million people will be awarded a bachelor’s degree in the next month.

Congratulations!

Not that you asked, but a few words of advice…

If a company didn’t hire you because your SAT scores weren’t good enough, don’t feel bad. Be relieved. A company that short-sighted is probably a miserable place to work anyway.

Once you’re hired, no one cares what school you went to. They care about: Whether you’re pleasant to work with, whether you’re good at your job, and whether you make them feel good about themselves (in that order).

Be totally honest in job interviews. Embrace reality if you’re not a good fit.

Don’t feel bad changing careers. The odds that you have your life figured out at age 22 are barely higher than at age 18.

Get comfortable with the idea that some of what you were taught in school doesn’t apply to the real world. You’ll have to unlearn some things.

A long commute will ruin your life. There are only so many good podcasts that can support your sanity through rush hour.

A strict office dress code is your first sign that things are about to suck.

People get accustomed to their income, but the misery of an awful workplace and long hours are enduring.

Don’t suck up to your boss. They can smell your insincerity from a mile away. Impress them with good work.

Realize that a pound of emotional intelligence is worth a ton of book intelligence.

Say “I don’t know” when you don’t know.

Live in a big city at least once, and not one you grew up in.

Realize that some things you’re certain are true are either wrong or incomplete.

Realize that your youth is the biggest investment asset you have. You probably have 40 years in front of you to invest. Warren Buffett couldn’t dream about that kind of advantage.

Change your mind when the facts change.

Avoid people who don’t.

You’re under no obligation to have an opinion about anything.

You have a strict obligation to not have an opinion about things you don’t understand.

Get over the idea that because you’re done with college, you’re done learning. You’ve barely begun.

Make a budget. Stick to it.

Don’t complain about your student loans. You took them out. Nothing you can do about it now. Figure out the most practical way to pay them off as soon as possible.

Learn Excel. I don’t know why more schools don’t emphasize this. You’ll use it in most jobs, and it will make your life easier.

Read books. I love Twitter as much as anyone, but some topics take length to explain.

Don’t argue politics. With anyone. It’s a waste of energy. The odds that you’ll change someone else’s mind are the same that they will change yours.

Realize that rational people can disagree.

Don’t make big decisions when you’re emotional. The odds that you’ll regret them approach 100%.

Realize that everyone’s point of view is a product of the people they’ve met and the experiences they’ve had in life, most of which are outside of their control. This includes yourself.

Good luck.

For more:

MONEY job search

6 Tips for Landing a Last-Minute Summer Internship

150504_CAR_SummerIntern
Eric Audras—Getty Images

Haven't started looking for an internship yet? These strategies will help you catch up in a hurry.

Summer is nearly here, and college students (along with some particularly ambitious high schoolers) who don’t already have plans are scrambling to snag a last-minute internship.

The reality is that by the time May comes around, many student-friendly jobs are already taken. “Organizations have been recruiting all year for internships,” says Philip D. Gardner, director of the College Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University.

Still, Gardner says, students who haven’t yet secured a spot shouldn’t give up hope. The internship market may not be as robust as it was in February, he tells MONEY, “but with some diligence, students should find them.”

Diligence, that is, combined with some smart searching skills. Keep these five tips in mind while on the hunt for the perfect summer job:

1. Ask the right questions

Summer positions aren’t beneficial for their own sake. The point of an internship is to give students real work experience that will eventually lead to a job in their chosen field, or help them decide whether that field is really where they want to work after graduation. So even last-minute job seekers shouldn’t leap at the first offer.

“Some offices offer internships to people trying to get cheap labor,” Gardner says. Students who coasted into positions with family friends or took the first offer “got an internship to put on their resume, but it didn’t get them where they wanted to go.”

According to Gardner, the key to finding a really useful internship is asking the right questions:

  • “What professional outcomes am I going to be able to obtain from this internship?”
  • “Will this allow me to develop teamwork skills or apply learning to problem-solving in this area?”
  • “Will I be able to obtain a good overview of potential careers in your organization, or have a chance to experience some of the basic fundamental responsibilities in this organization?”

Each industry has its own nuances that demand a unique set of queries, so Gardner advises students to talk to their college’s career services center to learn what they should be asking when meeting with potential employers. Plus, showing hiring managers that you’ve done some homework and are eager to learn about their field can only help your chances, especially at this late date.

2. Know where to look

It’s not enough to use the basic set of job search sites, like CareerSearch and O*Net, when hunting for an internship. Many industries also have their own niche job boards where positions that don’t appear elsewhere are posted. Check with your college’s career office, which often has knowledge of industry-specific job listings and connections with a variety of employers. He also recommends talking with professors, who might have tips on internships in their areas of expertise.

3. Give your resume a quick makeover

Hiring managers depend on your resume and cover letter when deciding who to interview for open positions, so it’s important to make sure yours is as perfect as it can be before you start sending out queries. Since time is of the essence, the fastest way to get your resume into shape is to solicit professional help.

Gardner recommends making an immediate appointment with one of your school’s career counselors. They’re a one-stop-shop for general advice—like what fonts to use, how much space each item deserves—and industry specific guidance, such as which achievements to highlight and which to leave out.

4. Become an interview expert

While a writing a good resume is essential, it’s difficult for any undergraduate to get a job based on solely on their past accomplishments. Students in their late teens or early 20s understandably tend to lack extensive work histories, meaning employers are usually going to value attitude and temperament over experience.

“Young people are going to be hired more often on personality traits than on knowledge or skills,” says Carol Christen, co-author of What Color Is Your Parachute? For Teens, a career guide for young people. “Are you willing to show up on time? Are you willing to ask questions?”

According to Christen, interviews are the primary way to show employers you have the right personality for the position. Moreover, she says, it can take as many as nine interviews for students to get comfortable, making practice essential.

How does one get interview practice before actually interviewing for a job? Mock interviews with college career counselors are one option, but a more time-efficient idea, championed by Christen, is to ask people already employed in your field for an informational interview.

Reach out to people and request a brief chat about their day-to-day responsibilities, how they got their job, and other inside knowledge. These discussions won’t give you experience talking about your own accomplishments, but Christen says they should help build confidence, develop connections, and teach students how to hold a conversation entirely around work.

5. Design your own internship

If your applications go unanswered, don’t give up. Look into volunteering at a nonprofit organization or political campaign in an area that will give you some exposure to career skills. Another option is to design an independent project that could be useful to a business or nonprofit—such as doing market research or looking into various fundraising options—and then ask if anyone on staff will “sponsor” the program by acting as a supervisor or mentor.

6. Next time, get started sooner

It’s possible to get a summer job if you start searching in May, but waiting this long is far from ideal. In the future, Gardner recommends, start looking for an internship as soon as you get back from summer break. He says underclassmen should start particularly early since recruiters tend to hit campuses in the fall and early winter. Getting a head start on the process not only means a higher chance of landing an internship, it also means you’ll have more options to pick from when deciding which position fits you best.

Read next: How to convert a summer internship into a full-time job

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