Sunday, February 16, 2014
What do I tell my boss when I'm interviewing for a new job?
According to a longitudinal survey conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average person born between 1957 and 1964 had 11.3 jobs between the time they were 18 and 46 years old. Nearly half of these jobs (5.5) were held between the time these workers were 18 to 24.
The average person in the U.S. and Canada changes jobs often. Unless these average workers happen to be self-employed or unemployed while looking for their next job, they're typically required to find a way to interview for a new position while still holding their old one.
Going out on these interviews or searching for new employment while on the current job can be challenging. The process has one reader in the Midwest perplexed.
"When a person takes time off work to interview for a new job -- either locally or traveling out of state -- what is an acceptable reason to give to one's current employer about the need to take time off?" asks the reader.
He recognizes that "informing your current employer that you are job searching is probably not a good idea."
But the reader observes that saying you are ill or a family member is sick is "not ethical" since it's not true.
So what to do? he asks.
The reader is correct that disclosing that you're searching for a new job is likely not the wisest career move, unless perhaps it's part of a larger discussion about career goals and job satisfaction. Sure, signaling that you're looking around might prompt an employer to see what he or she can do to keep a valued employee. But it's just as likely to be interpreted that the worker is no longer engaged and already has one foot out the door. It's hardly worth the risk, particularly early on in a job search that might not yield positive results.
When a new job is offered, that's the time to be forthcoming with the current employer.
Calling in sick or claiming an illness in the family as the only alternatives to radical honesty with the boss seems a false premise. A few years ago, I wrote about a survey of workers that revealed 32 percent had called in sick over the course of a year when they really weren't sick, and 27 percent of them viewed sick days the same as vacation days. Faking sickness to get a day off, however, is wrong.
Rather than lie about illness, the right thing is to take either personal time or vacation days to go out on job interviews. If the boss asks why you want the day off, it's perfectly fine to respond generically by saying it's to take care of "personal business," although the right thing is for the boss to mind his own business.
Nothing is gained if a worker is caught in a lie. Granted, a job search is no vacation, but looking for a new job should not be done on a current employer's time.
Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Right Thing: Conscience, Profit and Personal Responsibility in Today's Business and The Good, the Bad, and Your Business: Choosing Right When Ethical Dilemmas Pull You Apart, is a lecturer in public policy and director of the communications program at Harvard's Kennedy School.
Follow him on Twitter: @jseglin