If you’re job searching while employed, your inclination may be to keep it a secret from your supervisor. Knowing of your plans to leave the company, your supervisor may give you less desirable assignments or retaliate against you in other ways. Another concern is that your coworkers could develop a lower opinion of your professional value if you share your plans but never get a job offer. While these are certainly valid, there are some reasons to consider telling your boss about your job hunt. Here are four factors to consider.
Take into account the culture of your office and your profession.
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to this dilemma. The right move for you will depend on your relationships with your boss and work colleagues, and your assessment of risk. Is it safer to avoid any kind of retribution at work by keeping your search a secret? Or is it better to tell your boss and avoid the possibility of him or her finding out about your search from someone else? If you work in a company or industry that’s not very big, your boss could still learn of your search from a colleague.
Consider who you’ll list as a reference.
Many employment applications ask you to list a certain number of years of work history, as well as your supervisors during that time. There’s always a question: May we contact this person for a reference? If you’re not going to tell your supervisor you’re job hunting, you’re probably going to check “No,” which can be a big red flag for employers. A hiring manager will wonder: Is it because you’ve got a bad relationship with your supervisor, and if so, whose fault is that? If you’re job searching behind your supervisor’s back, what are you going to be doing behind my back if I hire you? And what are you trying to hide — would your supervisor tell me terrible things about you? The benefit of receiving a positive recommendation from your current supervisor could well outweigh the risks associated with disclosing your job-search plans.
Control the message.
My general philosophy is that you don’t want your supervisor to find out about your plans from someone other than you — whether you’re going back to school or you’re job searching. You want to be able to control that message, even if it’s a “bad” message, which you can do if you tell your supervisor ahead of time. If you choose not to, and she or he finds out from someone else, that message is no longer yours to control. If you are the one initially delivering the message, there are things you can say to your boss that would help soften the blow: “I’ve learned and contributed what I can here, and I think now is a strategic time for me to move on.” “I’m looking to change career fields.” “I have a life situation that requires a different kind of job right now.” And you want to state that, while exploring other options, you’ll continue giving your office 100 percent — and follow through.
What about counteroffers?
It’s possible that, when you tell your supervisor about your job search, he or she will make a counteroffer to convince you to stay. Be wary of accepting it — unless the offer fully addresses your reasons for leaving and you plan to suspend your job search. If you intend to consider other offers, accepting the counteroffer gets you into a somewhat dangerous game, because once you accept the counteroffer, how long are you then obligated to that employer? What if a company you’ve applied to makes you a better job offer the next week? I generally advise that if you want to leave your company, and you get an opportunity you want, you need to go ahead and accept it and move on with your new job.
Designed for working adults who need to balance school and life, graduate programs at St. Edward’s University offer flexible class schedules, small class sizes and real-world curriculum taught by experienced professionals.
Ray Rogers is the director of Career and Professional Development at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas.