Don’t Want To Commit Career Suicide!

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about keeping your boss informed of applying for other positions:

I’ve used your website in the past and it’s been very helpful. I have what I feel is a common problem, but the circumstances are a little different because of how the company I work for handles things. A little bit of background first. Employees can apply for positions within the company through the company website. Whenever an employee applies for a position within the company, automatic e-mail confirmation e-mail is sent not only to the employee, but to their boss as well. Because of this automatic notification, I feel it is always in the employee’s best interest to at least give their boss a “heads up” that they plan to apply for a position. Here is my issue. I had applied for a higher paying management position in another department a few months ago. The position was right up my alley, and though I was happy in my present job, I would have kicked myself if I didn’t take a shot at it. I talked to my boss and he completely understood my reasons for applying, etc. But I was told that the department was doing everything they could for me (as far as money and position go).

Unfortunately, I did not get the job I applied for. I have realized now that even though I like what I do in my present position, there is no opportunity for advancement (i.e. being promoted to management). I feel that I should have been promoted at this point, and I received a stellar review, but a very meager raise and no promotion. I’ve been keeping my eyes open for other positions within the company, but I’ve been hesitant to apply because I don’t want to give the impression that I want out of the department and/or that I’m unhappy.

Recently, though, a higher paying management position opened in the previous department I worked in. I had left that department on very good terms (I wanted to “expand my horizons” and accepted my current position), and talked to my previous boss about the management position and she was very excited to hear about my interest. The present position doesn’t report to my previous boss (it reports to one of her peers, they are both directors). She told me that even though this director already has someone in mind for the job, the decision is still not entirely his own to make and she encouraged me to apply.

She had even spoken to her boss about me, and he wants to meet me. She also told me that if I don’t get this particular position, there would be other similar management positions opening in the future which I would be perfect for.I haven’t told my present boss about the conversation with my former boss; I’ve only told him that I was planning on applying for a job. I’ve already applied for this position, and I really don’t know what my chances are.

From my conversation with my former boss, there seems like there are now other opportunities opening up in my former department, but I don’t want to shoot myself in the foot by applying for numerous jobs as they are posted. I also fear that if I do start applying and do shoot myself in the foot, I will get “stuck” in my current position if I don’t get this or any of the future positions. How should I handle this? I think I should just be completely honest with my present boss and let him know how I feel and the reasons why I’m looking at positions in other departments. I can’t tell him everything, though, because some of the information that my former boss told me was in confidence (i.e. that there will be future management openings in that department). Any advice is greatly appreciated!

Signed, Looking

Dear Looking:

It is a common practice for internal job seekers to have their current boss notified, and I know your concern about that is a natural one. Your H.R. Department might advise you should there be a way that your current boss not be notified; however, sometimes even if that kind of information is supposedly so restricted at your request, it still gets back to the boss. So, I think you are wise to keep your boss informed that you are continuing to apply when positions are posted and to ask for his support. Good bosses will be supportive. Rather, than have to initiate such a conversation, wise bosses will engage their subordinates in career path conversation and help them to grow both within their current assignment or to find other work.

At certain stages in one’s career looking is more frequent. That doesn’t necessarily mean you dislike your current job, but rather that you are interested in others within your company. I gather that your concern is that you don’t want to be seen as “dissatisfied” if you apply frequently and “not chosen” as you might be. Of course that is a risk. Have you been up front with your boss to tell him that you are concerned that he might see you in that way. To be forewarned is something that bosses appreciate and that might partially immunize him for seeing you that way.

Meanwhile, it is especially important that you do everything possible to contribute to your current department. Possibly even speaking with your boss to inquire in what ways you might be a high performer. Also, avoid conversations with co-workers that imply you are looking or in any way dissatisfied. Be a cheerleader of others. Finally, maintain a balance between self-interest in advancement and outside interests; in fitness, volunteer work, family and fun. Sometimes avocations can make up for less that the perfect job. By the way, are acquainted with Winning Workplaces ? Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS.

William Gorden