When to Tell Your Boss You’re Looking

Posted October 10, 2012 by Marcy Twete in On the Ladder
Over on PersonalBrandingBlog.com, Skip Freeman gave us a little glimpse into the workings of Marissa Mayer’s transition from Google to Yahoo! Namely, when she gave her notice, which according to Skip was…..30 minutes before she left.

It’s a question career experts are asked often – “When should I tell my boss I’m looking?” The short answer: when you accept a different job. Now, if you’re anything like everyone else who’s asked me this question, you’re probably saying, “But Marcy, I have a really good relationship with my boss….I’m uncomfortable lying about where I am when I’m interviewing…..I know she/he’ll be supportive……etc, etc, etc.” Oh well, in that case – SAME ANSWER!

Don’t tell your boss you’re leaving until you’re actually leaving. But as with anything else, there are a few exceptions to this rule (just a few) and I’ll tell you what they are:

  • You’re making a serious geographic move planned far in advance. In 2010, when my husband and I decided to move to Chicago, I let my boss in on the plan. She was an incredible mentor to me in the process, and knew that I was unsure what my timeline might be. When my husband accepted a position in the fall, we sat down together and made a transition plan that would give me time to search for a job, complete large projects, etc. before leaving about eight weeks later. Sometimes transitions aren’t because you don’t like your job, and are instead for family reasons. It may be necessary to ask for early support in this kind of process, especially if you share friends with your boss or he or she would find out you were moving from someone else.
  • You’re going back to school and will likely be looking for a job in a new field. During this kind of a process, your employer will likely need to be informed of your school schedule. If you currently work in an office setting, and you’re going back to school to become a nurse, it’s going to be pretty clear to your boss that you’re going to look for a job. Again, this may be an instance where being honest and asking for support might be crucial to your flexibility and success during that time.
  • You’re not coming back from maternity leave. This one might annoy a few moms, but I feel strongly about it. Lately, I’ve heard about a number of women who take a full maternity leave and quit immediately when they return. This isn’t what maternity leave is for, ladies, and frankly the abuse of the system can jeopardize its availability for all women in your company. If you have no intention of returning to work after you have a baby, quit. If you realize part way through your maternity leave you don’t want to return, quit then.

But in most other situations, the answer is…..don’t tell them you’re leaving until — that’s right, you guessed it — you’re really leaving!

About the Author

Marcy Twete

Marcy Twete is a career fundraiser turned corporate responsibility executive, a career and networking expert and the author of the book "You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works."