Job Searching Networking and Career Advice

When to Tell Your Boss You’re Job Searching

Natasha Serafimovska

Career Coach, Professional Resume Writer, Freelance Writer


The Bureau of Labor Statistics has found that individuals, on average, have 12.4 jobs throughout their working life. So regardless of where you are on the career ladder, it’s inevitable that at some point, you’ll begin looking for another job. That said, you might be wondering

“should I tell my boss I’m looking for another job?

Disclosing that you are job hunting can be a sensitive topic. You don’t want to sever your relationship with your employer, so it is important that you approach this conversation with a lot of caution. Here, we’ll look at what you need to consider before deciding to share your job search with your boss.

Think Before Talking to Your Boss: What to Consider

man sitting at his computer wondering how to tell his boss he's job searching

There are dozens of reasons why one might be looking for a new job. Perhaps you’ve outgrown your current role and are looking for a new challenge. Or, maybe you dislike the corporate culture and are looking for something different. Or, it might be that you’ve realized that you want to switch careers altogether and want to start afresh in a new direction. 

The reason behind your desire to change jobs should influence if and how you share the news with your boss. For instance, if you love the company but you’re looking for a new challenge, sharing this with your boss can open up a constructive conversation around what other roles you could fill in the business. If, however, you dislike your job and the company you work for, sharing your job search doesn’t leave room for constructive conversation and can, in fact, backfire. 

Should I Tell My Boss I’m Looking for Another Job

If you have several reasons for considering a job hunt and are still unclear how to position this with your current boss, consider the following:

Evaluate Your Relationship with Your Boss

First and foremost, it’s important to be honest on where you stand with your boss and what your relationship is like. Are they a supportive leader who respects you as an employee or do you have a more distant relationship? Do they root for the success of their employees or are they controlling and unaccepting of change? Think about how other employees who have left have been treated or talked about. This can be a good indicator of how open you can be about your own job search.

Look for Mutual Benefit 

The company hired you because you have something to give the business. If you decide to disclose your job search, there has to be a mutual benefit that comes out of it. For example, if you’re looking for more responsibilities, the company may decide to change the scope of your work and offer you a job internally.

This benefits the business as they get to retain a valuable employee and avoid spending money on recruitment while you get to change your job without going through the lengthy process of applying and interviewing for jobs. 

Think about the Worst Scenario

What’s the worst-case scenario from divulging your job search to your boss? Perhaps you get fired and you don’t find another job for months? Or, you stay at your current job for another year, but you’re treated poorly and bypassed for promotions. Think about the ripple effect your transparency can have on your work at the moment and several months or years down the line. This will inform when is the right time to share your news.

When Should You Disclose That You are Looking for Another Job?

two businessmen looking at a clock deciding when to tell the boss they're job searching
Now the question has shifted from “should I tell my boss I’m looking for another job” to “when should I tell my boss I’m looking for another job”.

Ideally, you’d share the news about your job search once you have a formal job offer at hand. This way, you can be sure that you’ll have a job regardless of how that conversation goes. However, if you’ve already told your boss that you want more responsibility and learning opportunities and they haven’t done anything about it, it’s okay to say that you’re considering looking elsewhere. 

It might be that there’s simply no room for growth in your current role and your boss would be happy to share their network with you and give you a stellar reference.

Timing is Going to be Crucial

You need to consider your timing from two perspectives. First, are you having this conversation at the very outset of your job search or once you’ve landed a job offer? Again, if you aren’t sure your boss is going to be supportive it’s best to wait until you’ve been offered a new job. 

Second, consider the state of mind your boss is in when you share the news. Remember that your boss is dealing with deadlines, bureaucracy, bad clients, and pressure from their own job. So, how your boss is currently feeling in his or her role can impact how they respond to your news. Try to be in tune with their emotional state so you can choose a time when they’re in a good place.

Be Prepared in Advance

So, you’ve decided that you’re going to be honest and share that you’ve applied for another job. The best thing you can do in advance of the chat is to be prepared about all the scenarios in which the conversation can go. It’s important to prepare for any potential questions your boss has. Brace yourself to answer questions about salary ranges, role changes, and companies you looked into.

Preparing for this in advance will put you in control of conversation and help you keep it constructive and professional.

Discuss Responsibilities

One of the main concerns your boss will have coming out of this conversation is how dedicated are you going to be to your current job. Is your productivity going to suffer? You can remove some of these worries by reinstating your commitment to your team and your current responsibilities. 

If you’re on good terms with your boss, perhaps you can offer to interview the new candidates and help them find the best possible replacement. You also don’t want to leave your team covering for you, so they should have plenty of notice to find someone else before you actually leave.

When Not to Tell Your Boss About Applying for a Job 

Inappropriate Timing

Regardless of how supportive or good your boss is, not all times are appropriate for this type of a discussion. Perhaps the team has a big project to deliver in a short timeframe and news about your job hunt can just cause unnecessary stress. Or, maybe your boss is going through a personal issue at home and bringing this up can add more strain to their wellbeing and ability to be constructive. 

Try to be mindful of how long your boss would need to find a replacement for you and share the news when things are relatively stable and under control. 

Unhealthy Relationship with Boss

Another thing to consider is your existing relationship with your boss. If you aren’t on good terms with them, your honesty may backfire. They may use this information against you, bypass you for promotions, or even fire you for no specific reason. If that’s the case, wait until you have a formal offer to disclose you’re leaving. In the meantime, keep the job hunt on the down-low.

Non-Permissive Company Culture

How transparent you’re going to be should also be informed by the corporate culture at your current employer. How did former employees fare when they said they’re leaving? Were they bad-mouthed and penalized or was their next move celebrated as a team success? 

A positive corporate culture encourages the growth of its employees. Departing employees are sent off with farewell drinks and best wishes. If that’s not the case where you’re right now, you better keep your job hunt to yourself. 

What NOT TO DO When Searching for Another Job

Don’t Tell by Showing

If you’ve decided to keep your job search to yourself, don’t slip up by taking a call with a recruiter while at the office or when other employees are nearby. If possible, step outside the building to take the call or give them a call back once you finish work. 

thumbs down for what not to do when job searching

Likewise, some companies track your laptop activity and can inadvertently find out about your plans that way. It’s a good practice to use another device for all your job inquiries or applications. 

Avoid Social Media Disclosure

You know what’s worse than hearing your employee wants to leave? Accidentally finding out about it on social media. If you’ve decided not to disclose your job search, make sure that there are no loose ends through which this information can reach your employer. 

For instance, don’t write a LinkedIn or Facebook post sharing your quest for a new challenge. While you may use social media to privately message contacts and send job applications, make sure none of that can get to the eyes of your current boss. 

Frequently Asked Questions on Leaving a Job 

Is it okay to tell your boss you’re looking for another job?

It really depends. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Have I talked to my boss about growth opportunities, yet there have been no changes?
  • Am I on good terms with my boss?
  • Is my boss usually supportive of employees’ growth?

All these questions will tell you whether you should share your job search or not. In most cases, individuals wait until they have a formal job offer at hand before they let their current employer know. 

Do I need to tell my boss I’m looking for a new job?

You’re not obligated to inform your employer you’re looking for a new job. However, you may decide to let them know if you think this can benefit you. Perhaps you’re aware of a job opening internally, and you want to be considered for it. Or, maybe your boss is well-connected and they can introduce you to other companies if they can’t offer promotions internally.

Can I Get Fired for Looking for Another Job?

Yes. Montana is the only state where employers need to provide cause for firing an employee after their six-month probationary period. If you work in any other state you’re basically an employee-at-will, which means the employer can fire you for no reason at all.  

Conclusion

Job searches can be stressful and time-consuming. Showing up at your current job while navigating job applications, interviews and assessments can just add to that stress. It’s normal to consider sharing this experience with your boss and perhaps take some of that pressure off.

However, you need to navigate this space very carefully. Before saying anything, consider what you want to get out that conversation and what you look for in your next job. If your existing employer can provide that for you, being transparent can open up new avenues for growth and development. If, however, that’s not the case, then keeping your job search private might be best.

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