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Ask a Hiring Expert: How Do I Go About the Dance Between Allowing a Potential Employer To Talk To My Current Employer?

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Welcome to Ask a Hiring Expert, an advice column where Adecco Staffing President Joyce Russell answers all of your questions about landing the next job.

Dear Joyce,

I love this series and had a question of my own. I am currently employed full time, but it's not the career path I see myself following for the next 20 plus years. I found a job that is exactly what I've been working towards since I graduated last year in May. I meet the minimum requirements of education, skills, and work experience. I am preparing to submit my application after I meet with one of my references next week.

I want to know how I go about that dance between allowing the new job contacting my current manager should they have questions and talking with my current employer about where I see myself. I haven't spoken to my manager about keeping my eye open for a job that is more in line with my career goals.

My fear is, they'll reach out to my current job that knows nothing about my job searching and perhaps if I don't get it, jeopardizing my current job.

Searching for another opportunity while in a current job can be tricky. Since you just graduated last May, I’m assuming your current job is likely your only job, and thus you likely will need your current employer as a reference.

Within that year, if you’ve had the opportunity to build a strong relationship with your manager, it wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing to give them the courtesy of letting them know you’re actively searching for other opportunities, or to ask if they could be one of your references. I would caution though, by doing so, you’re also giving your employer the opportunity to begin searching for your replacement.

Should they find someone before you’ve found employment elsewhere, you may find yourself in between jobs. Before jumping the gun, I would first wait to see if your application gets you to an interview stage. Should this be the case, the interview goes well, you feel fairly certain you’ll be offered the job, and the hiring manager asks you for a list of references, explain that your current employer is not yet aware of your job search, and could they give you two business days to have that conversation before contacting your manager? Most employers will have no problem with the short lag time, and will respect your consideration for your current employer – something you will also be bringing with you to their company!

When speaking with your current boss, I wouldn’t recommend stating that your current job is not in line with your career goals. Rather, express that you’ve appreciated your time at their company and you’ve gained invaluable experiences, but that this other employment opportunity checks off some career (and potentially personal) passion points you feel you need to explore.

Every manager will respond differently, so before taking any action, carefully evaluate the current state of your role, your relationship with your manager and if their reference would be beneficial in helping you secure a position elsewhere. Best of luck!

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This advice assumes that if you tell your employer you are looking for other jobs, you won’t be terminated. I would consider the possibility that if you don’t get the job, this could put you in an akward position with you current manager who you just said you don’t want to work for long-term. Are there others that could be a reference? A mentor, a professor, or even a trusted manager in another department that won’t spill the beans that you are applying to a different position might be options. You know your manager the best, but if this could risk you your current job, I would consider alternatives to including your current employer as a reference altogether. Even early in my career, I never have used references from where I was currently employed and it has never been a problem since people understand the awkwardness of looking for a job while employed. Best of luck in your search!

I've had this same issue in the past, and am currently doing that awkward dance myself. Last year, even though I knew I didn't want to stay in my current position, I tried to find a new site and it didn't work out in part because I didn't have a reference/recommendation from my current boss. My field (education) does lean a bit on those, so it seemed a bit like things weren't clean and at least neutral on my end. This year, my boss does know I'm looking, and it has helped a lot. My reaching out to potential sites are received better. Just something to keep in mind, especially if the field relies heavily on networking!

Absolutely! Every situation will vary manager to manager and company and company - and in your case, industry to industry. Think of all possible scenarios before acting, then create plans and backup plans should things go this way or that.

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