Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Never Tell Your Company You Are Looking For A Job

In the course of talking to job candidates – at all levels from junior to very senior – I often hear that they have told their boss that they are looking.  Every time I hear this, I cringe.  It is often their downfall, despite the fact that they think they have a great relationship and/or a friendship and their “search” will be kept secret. 

I recently had a very good account director tell me a story:  She worked for someone earlier in her career.  They liked each other and stayed in touch.  Several years and two jobs later when she decided to change jobs, she called him and he offered  to hire her and she accepted.  He had started a small agency which was now twenty people and he needed someone at her level.  After only a few months she realized that it was the wrong place for her.  And she told her boss that she wanted to look, but would give him ample notice once she found a job.


A month later she was gone.

I completely understand where she was coming from.  She and her boss were friends, so she thought she was doing the decent thing. Truth is, all she was doing was assuaging her conscience.  She didn’t take into consideration several things.  First, inadvertently, she was proving herself disloyal and made him feel as if hiring her was a wrong decision (and no one likes to be made wrong).  She also didn’t think through that once she got a new job, ample notice is rarely enough. Few employees can be replaced in two, three or even four weeks.  And the new employer will inevitably want her to start within two weeks. What happened in this case was that her boss had coincidentally met someone he liked and, despite his relationship with the account director, he did not want to get caught on the short end of the stick. You can’t blame him.  

She was shocked and surprised by being fired because her intentions were totally honorable.

The first rule of job hunting is total secrecy.  Even from friends.  I once had a person tell me that he told his roommate about a job he was interviewing for.  The roommate called, got an interview and took the job. (They are no longer friends, obviously.)

Furthermore, from the employer’s point of view, no matter how well you and your supervisor(s) get along, everyone is overworked.  So the first thing they think about when they hear that someone who is reporting to them is going to leave is a selfish thought – who is going to do the work that this person was/is doing.  As a recruiter, I have many clients who call me absolutely panicked, telling me that they are too busy and need someone immediately (that is why counteroffers are often made). 

So as nice and moral as you want to be, keep your job changing plans to yourself. Your supervisor may be your friend, but he or she has a greater responsibility to their company.


  1. Welcome back, Paul! So happy to have you and View From Madison Avenue back on Tuesdays.

  2. So glad you're back, nose to the grindstone, or whatever the phrase is!

  3. So well stated Paul! Nice to read your posts again and have you back in the mix...

  4. So what advice do you give to smartass creative directors like myself who've had 26 jobs? Heck, I've owned my own business now for 15 years and I've tried to quit three times - problem is, my boss (me) won't accept my resignation. Sigh.

  5. And never mention the "R" (retirement) word even if you're 65 and are asked for your long term goals. You might assume everyone knows that retirement is in your not-too-distant future but just saying the word - even in the context of "I'm thinking of retiring 4 - 5 years from now" can have unintended results!


I would welcome your comments, suggestions or anything you would like to share with me or my readers.

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