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My idea is I want to add a clause called "Skill development" where I am allotted a small(3/40) amount of hours per week working on projects of my choosing.

The idea is working on these projects will actually increase my value/productivity as an employee of the company.

Is this acceptable? Will I be laughed off of the negotiating table?

  • 3
    You act as if you expect every company to behave the same way towards this. Dependent on the company will depend on whether it is acceptable, or laughed off. Theres no one right answer for this – Rhys Apr 13 '13 at 18:31
  • Are you negotiating a salaried/hourly contract? – enderland Apr 14 '13 at 12:46
  • the larger the company, the smaller your chances of getting anything except a standard contract and salary scale, unless you're one of the very few people such companies would hire at almost any cost (people like James Gosling maybe). – jwenting Apr 16 '13 at 6:19
  • I suspect that any job that is constrained at 40 hours per week of work time is going to have a hard time allocating 10% of that to personal projects of a contractor. That is a perk generally offered to employees working 50+ hours a week on average. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Apr 16 '13 at 12:51
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Like most elements of negotiation, it might go either way. If you're some fresh out of high school Janitor, you'll have a hard time negotiating for personal projects. If you're one of a handful of people with a certain skillset, then companies will be happy to cater to far more outlandish demands.

In my experience, this sort of thing isn't common. Training is often already handled by the company, and (contractually) treating you specially isn't worth the minor benefit of your increased value/productivity. Some companies see that sort of thing as something you should do on your own. And not a few companies simply won't negotiate, since paying the lawyers to validate the contract is more time/money than finding another acceptable candidate (who is happy not negotiating).

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You can ask for anything you like, and if the company wants you enough they may well agree to it. However I would not hold out a lot of hope, at least of getting it written into your contract. There are some big disadvantages for the company, which I will list:

  • Who decides what you work on? If it's you and only you, what guarantee does the company have that you will work on something even slightly relevant to what they want you to learn? What's to stop you spending three hours learning underwater basket weaving?
  • If it isn't written into your contract, they can grant it to you and then cancel it if it isn't working out
  • When there is a crunch on they want you working 100% on your actual job. If it's in your contract you can take those three hours off even if everyone is waiting in you.
  • It sets a precedent. When your new colleagues find out, they are going to be disgruntled because they didn't get this perk too
  • They may have other ways of training you and improving your productivity which they want to use (and which may be better!)
  • Is this clause in your contract going to continue when you are promoted to manager? Or when you are transferred to some supercritical project?

It's probably worth pointing out that even the most famous company that employs the 'work on your own project' perk doesn't have it written into their contract.

You are more likely to get them to agree verbally to this for some length of time. But if it's not policy for all employees I'm afraid they are unlikely to make a special case.

  • It's probably worth pointing out that even the most famous company that employs the 'work on your own project' perk doesn't have it written into their contract. It is also a perk for their salaried employees not their hourly consultants. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Apr 16 '13 at 12:53
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Go work for Google and you won't have to worry about it because they already do this.

The idea is working on these projects will actually increase my value/productivity as an employee of the company.

This is not a given and will test your ability to influence people. If after 6 months and you have nothing additional to offer your company, should they fire you?

There could be a situation where a company is struggling to find someone to maintain a legacy code base in an unpopular language. If they allow time to work on other areas, it could be good compromise.

  • Even at Google it's not written into the contract. – DJClayworth Apr 23 '13 at 16:29

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