Should You Tell Your Employer You’re Job Searching?


Yesterday afternoon I was speaking with a woman whom I worked closely a couple of years ago when she was unemployed. She is working on a part-time basis, and is looking for full-time work elsewhere. In addition to looking for more hours and more total income, she has moved, and is now taking public transit from one city to another, a trip of 40 minutes.

“Do you think I should tell my boss I’m looking for another job or not?” she asked. My first reaction was to quickly say, “No!”, but I altered my view shortly. You see I know how difficult it was for her to secure the job she has now, and because the job she has is an entry-level job and people are easily replaced, I didn’t want her boss to fire her and then have her be totally unemployed again, prompting a future gap on her resume. True an employer shouldn’t terminate someone for this reason, but the poor employers will sometimes do just that.

However, then she mentioned that when she relocated, her boss was surprised she hadn’t quit to look for a job closer to where she now lives, and she added that he had said he didn’t want her to quit, he was just expecting it. That was a year ago, and for the past year, she’s been making that trip faithfully. However, with the approaching winter and the snows it brings, she’s motivated to look closer to home for employment.

Apparently the employer not only said he was surprised she hadn’t quit to work closer to home, he added that he’d be happy to give her a good reference that changed my mind. In her case, the employer fully expects part-time employees will want to secure more hours, and if they can’t provide it, they know you have to work to survive, so it’s natural you should be looking. Telling your employer you are job searching then should come as no surprise. And if you add that you will give your employer a minimum of two weeks notice, they should appreciate your situation.

If you can be open and honest, it makes it easier than to approach your boss and tell them your job search progress, especially if you plan on providing their name and contact information to an interviewer when asked. If the current employer is supportive, they’ll then be honest and fair in return by providing a good assessment of your work. In this situation, entry-level staff needed on a part-time basis are relatively easy to find too, so a lengthy employee search is not their primary concern.

However, you always run the risk of an employer feeling threatened, thinking you might put in a lot less effort, maybe start taking home products or possibly poorly influencing other co-workers. For this reason, some poor employers will let employees go for fabricated reasons within 24 hours. This is unfortunate but true. But should you realistically be expected to work part-time for ever at a minimum wage? Would they in your shoes?

The best employers actually help their employees grow. If you are a good employee who adds value to the organization, and there is no room for advancement or for additional income or hours, some employers encourage their staff to take their new or growing skills and look around for other opportunities. These are the very best of employers, because they want their people to succeed, and if they move on, not only will they speak well of the company, but they derive pleasure from helping others.

I myself have taken different steps in my own past. Sometimes I’ve alerted the employer about my intentions and other times, I only indicated I had applied elsewhere after an interview. At the interview, I’d tell the interviewer that they are welcome to contact my current employer for a reference, but added that they have not yet been advised of my situation and then requested the following day to let them know myself. That prevents any awkward surprise for the current boss, and shows respect for them, as well as showing the interviewer how I might leave them one day.

It really all comes down to several questions. How good is your relationship with the current employer? How long have you been employed? How easy or difficult will it be to replace you? Why are you leaving? Are you the only one leaving or is it a steady stream of high turnovers? Are there things you are working on that make your presence essential or not?

In short, there is no black and white answer to this question of whether or not to advise the employer you are seeking another job. Even the best advice may backfire on you because as much as you think you know your boss, you may touch a nerve and be surprised at their reaction.

The best advice however is to leave on the best terms possible. Don’t say anything you’ll regret later, let them know you appreciate their support, and remember you might need their willingness to be a positive reference for years to come. While it may come as a shock, affirm your desire to work hard, help train a replacement, and give as much notice as you can. Always work to save the relationship.

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