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 sharing your job search with your boss.

Think Before Talking to Your Boss: What to Consider

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 and 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 about 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 about 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 about where you stand with your boss, what kind of leader they are, 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 for 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 you when is the right time to share your news.

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

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 will 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 currently feels 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.

When You Think This Announcement Would Rather Help You

In some cases, sharing your job search with your boss can actually be a welcome change in the business. For example, some businesses struggle to promote people from within simply because the company may not be growing as fast. It could also be because there aren’t available positions more junior employees can take. 

Disclosing that you’re looking for a new job can change that by making room for internal promotions. While your departure may not be ideal, creating space for internal promotions can actually boost people’s morale and improve overall performance.

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 for 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 the 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 you will 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 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 well-being 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 were 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. 

Best Practices to Look for Another Job While You’re Employed

Schedule Interview During Non-Work Hours

If you don’t want to raise any flags during your job search, it’s best to keep any job interviews outside of working hours. If possible, schedule your calls or in-person interviews in the morning before you start work, during your lunch break, or after working hours. If you can take days off, that would be even better. Time off gives you flexibility and can reduce the stress of doing the interviews around your workday.

Let Prospect Recruiter Know It Should Be Kept Confidential

You should also be transparent with your recruiters and let them know you want to keep your job search confidential. This will make them mindful of who they talk to about you and avoid any slip-ups in case they talk to more people in your industry.

Make Sure You Aren’t Using Anything ‘Work’

If your current employer has provided you with a phone or a laptop, they may very well be monitoring your activities on those devices. In order to keep your search 100% private, make sure you only use your personal devices for anything job search-related. 

Fulfill Your Current Job Responsibilities Properly

Regardless of whether this is a new job you’re leaving, or if you’ve been with your employer for years, it’s important that you perform your responsibilities well until the very end. Don’t allow your job search to distract you from your tasks or decrease your output. Slacking in those final days can very well break your professional bonds and hard-earned trust. 

If Confronted, Be Honest

Sometimes the unpredictable happens, and your employer may find out that you’re job searching. If it comes to it, be honest about your intentions. While you’re well within your right to look for another job, lying about it can hurt your image and make your employer question everything you’ve done or said in the past. Look for a job, but leave your integrity intact.

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. 

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.

Don’t Put Your Resume on Job Boards

Hiring managers rely on public job boards to discover candidates for new positions. If you upload your resume there, it’s very possible that your hiring managers will see it. So, if you want to keep your job search absolutely secret, then you’re better off steering away from job boards until you’re comfortable making your job hunt public.

Don’t Put Any Current Supervisor as a Reference

Companies are often looking for references to better gauge their applicants. However, people often make the mistake of putting their current manager as a reference.

This is bad practice if you want your job search to remain secret. The prospective employer may decide to contact them during the hiring process, which can cause a lot of unwanted friction for you. Instead, put “reference available upon request” in your resume. If they ask you for one, try to think of other people who may vouch for your character, either from prior jobs or organizations you’ve worked and volunteered with.

Frequently Asked Questions on Leaving a Job 

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

Before you say, “Okay, it’s that time I tell my boss I am looking for another job,” pause and 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 must 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.  

How to Get the Job You’re Looking for Quicker

Job hunting takes time, but there are several things you can do to speed up the process.

First things first, make sure you have the basics. Everyone is on LinkedIn nowadays, so ensure your profile is complete and up to date. Is your About Me section correctly reflecting your experience and the target jobs you’re aiming for? Are all of your previous jobs properly listed, with key responsibilities and achievements associated with each? All of this speaks to your professionalism and help you land a job faster.

Another important element is to personalize your job applications and resumes for each job. Instead of applying for any job you see online, be selective. Ensure your targeted jobs fit your profile and career aspirations. Then, take a look at each job’s key skills and experiences and adjust your resume and cover letter to reflect those. Doing more work upfront will land you more interviews and help you speed up the overall process.

And last but not least, stay abreast of industry news. Keep an eye out for what’s happening in the industry. Pay attention to potential acquisitions, hiring trends, and other major news. These things can cause a lot of flux and open up more vacancies than usual.

Bottom Line: It Depends

Finally, whether or not you tell your current boss about your job search depends on many factors. Before making a decision, consider your existing relationship with them. Also, be sure to evaluate how much stress it would put on your employer at the current moment. Will your manager have the mental and emotional bandwidth to deal with the news?

You also need to consider the high-level picture of how the business is doing and how your departure will impact your team and your overall department. If these things aren’t aligned, then you might as well keep your job search confidential until you’ve landed a new job.

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