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Myth or Fact? – It’s Harder to Secure a Travel Assignment After the Holidays…

With Thanksgiving only being 16 days away and Christmas only being 49 days away, all traveling healthcare professionals are beginning to make holiday plans. It’s only natural to want to spend the holidays with close friends and family, but what does that mean for your job security as a traveling healthcare professional?

Over the years, there has been a lot of speculation about the travel therapy job market come January. You might have heard that it can be hard to secure an assignment after New Years Day. Myth or fact?

As many travelers are finishing up their current assignments, they are left with some difficult choices… Should I accept a new assignment now to avoid the after-holiday rush? Will it really be that difficult to find a new assignment come January?

I checked in some trusted recruiters to get a sense of the current market and to find out what our viable options are as traveling healthcare professional. I asked them the tough questions we are all curious to know the answers to and here is what they had to say….

Is it harder to get a travel contract after the holidays?

The market is flooded with travelers who ended their contracts prior to the holidays and all want to start back up again in January. There is a “new year rush”. Therefore, it is harder to secure an assignment in early January. The jobs that are available will go quickly!

Don’t forget, many times, hiring managers and other decision makers have been off for the holidays and are also playing catch-up. This can create further delays in positions not only be filled but being opened to begin with.

Why is it harder to get a contract after the holidays?

There is more competition, particularly for OTs, PTAs, and COTAs than PTs and SLPs. Remember, jobs go quickly! Have your profile ready to go! This means, your recruiters should have your completed skills checklist, resume, and references so that when the job opens, you can be submitted ASAP!

Often, multiple candidates from the same company will be submitted to the same job. Clients will often ask how low of a budget the staffing agency can work with, which causes travelers that require higher pay to miss out. New grads also tend to miss out because there are experienced candidates submitted to the same jobs.

What advice would you give travelers?

Strategically it is best to start a November contract to avoid the “new year rush”. If you are happy with your current assignment, extend through the end of January. You can always ask for time off during the extension!

Preparation is key! Now is the perfect time to be working on new licenses so that you have more options available to you come January. Try to secure PRN work at home while you are waiting to begin a travel assignment, so you still have some cash flow. Be financially prepared to be out of work for a few weeks.

Always try to negotiate for a week off before deciding to take the entire month of December off. If that doesn’t pan out, it’s important to be as OPEN as possible come January to optimize your chances of securing an assignment in the “new year rush”.

Know that jobs in the South will book much faster than jobs up North. Clients are also aware of this traveler trend and will often decrease the bill rate. Supply and demand. You may not make great money in Florida during the winter, but you could in Maine! If high pay rate is a motivating factor, warm weather might have to take a back seat.

What should therapists who recently finished a contract, but still want to spend the holidays with friends and family?

Start a new contract or extend through January and ask for the time off in the middle of the contract to be home with family. Most directors will understand and approve up to a week off. Offering to complete an extended contract (i.e. 14 weeks instead of 13 weeks to make up for the time off can also be advantageous). I’m taking a week off for Christmas and volunteered to work both Thanksgiving Day and New Year’s Day in addition to completing a longer contract to make up for the week off at Christmas. Where can you compromise? Clients will go the extra mile for candidates who are willing to meet in the middle in terms of start date, time off, and pay rate.

If you are financially stable and “OK” beginning work sometime in January (not necessarily, the beginning of January), take the time. Jobs are still there, even though they are competitive. If you are qualified, meeting licensure and experience level requirements, you will find a job. Just know that you may not be able to start until the 3rd or 4th week of January.

If you do find that it takes most travelers longer to find a job in January, how much longer? How many weeks’ worth of pay should they have in savings to prepare for the potential lapse in employment?

Most facilities get renewed budgets in January. From their they meet with HR and decision-makers to assess and plan for needs for the entire year. Once this process is complete, jobs tend to go out to the agencies by mid to late-January. Luckily for us travelers, the lull doesn’t last long! Just plan accordingly.

Have at least 3 weeks’ worth of pay put away. This year is tricky since New Year’s Day falls on a Tuesday. Most traveler’s ideal start date will be 1/7/19 which will be competitive. Know that for a January start, you could be starting as late as 1/28/19.

Allow for 4 weeks to secure a new assignment if you plan to be selective. If you are incredibly open to setting and location, you can secure work faster. New graduates and limited experienced clinicians will be affected the most by this. Good jobs will have 8-10 submissions and “new grads” will get the cold shoulder unfortunately.

Based on the input from trusted recruiters with several years of industry experience, I can say with confidence, that the “new year rush” is not a myth. Start planning now! Know where you can compromise! Work with your recruiter collaboratively to find a solution that works best for you!

Happy Holidays Everyone!

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