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Job Searching With A Supervisor

New Professionals and Graduate Students Mid-Level New Professional
September 10, 2019 Dave Eng

Job searching in student affairs is already a challenging activity. But doing so when you’re already employed can be even more challenging. How exactly do search for a new job with your supervisor?

Some things need to be covered before diving into this controversial topic. Specifically, why you’re looking; when you’re looking; your current relationship with your boss; how to conduct a search while employed; and finally when and how to give your notice.

Why are you looking?

One of the most important things to consider job searching when employed is to ask yourself why you’re looking? Sometimes those reasons can be professionally transparent like a desire for new responsibilities, a different functional area, or different opportunities.

There could also be some logistical reasons like your partner getting a new job, taking care of a relative, or a desire to change where you live.  For the most part these reasons are fine to share with your boss since they are generally outside the control of what your current position has to offer you.  These reasons are less of a “breakup” with your job and more of a “life happens” scenario.

Regardless of the reasons behind your search, it’s imperative that you talk to a trusted friend, colleague, or mentor about your job search. Doing so will help you shed some light and clarity on why you’re searching and how to best go about the process.

No the matter the reason behind your search, know that it’s best to look for a new job while you’re currently employed. Obviously this is because you can rely on a consistent stream of income, but another benefit is that institutions see that you are employable and would most likely be a good hire.

The question to consider here is how to look for a new job with your current supervisor. Before you answer that, you first need to define and understand your relationship with your manager.

The relationship

If you have a supportive boss then you can let them know that you’re looking no matter what the reason. These are the types of individuals who have supported you from the outset and have helped you out professionally.

The same goes for the kinds of relationships that you have with your co-workers. If you have worked with them well in the past, then you can also let them know that you’re currently searching. Though be cautious: if you share this information with your co-workers, then you should share it with your manager first.

Searching with a supportive boss

Searching with a supportive manager will do wonders to help you with your search. Specifically when to comes to offering up a professional reference. Knowing that you have this kind of support can also help provide you confidence throughout your search. That’s why cultivating a positive relationship with your coworkers, supervisor, and the institution could you help you in launching you towards your next position.

In addition, an open search with a supportive manager and co-workers can help provide you with some much need professional assessment.  They can help you identify where your greatest assets lie, where you can improve, and some insight into what roles and positions would suit you for your next position.

A supportive manager can even help prepare you for your next role by giving your new projects, responsibilities, or other duties that could help you attain a new position that requires new skill sets.

In all, searching with a supportive boss is an easier process. Especially if you need to take care of major responsibilities such as opening and closing residence halls, new student orientation, commencement, or spring concerts as you are handling job search responsibilities.

Having a supportive boss is especially important if you need to take time off from your duties to interview on another campus or get someone to cover a duty night for you. If your manager already knows that you’re actively searching, then addressing these needs is much easier.

Having a really supportive manager can definitely help you in your job search. But there are other times when you should not be so open about your job search.

When not to tell your boss

Sometimes student affairs professionals don’t have a great of a relationship with their supervisor. That means that they can’t rely on them for professional advice or support in the process.  These scenarios are a little more precarious as these job seekers don’t want to do anything that would reveal their current job search.

If you’re unsure about your relationship with your manager then a good rule of thumb is not give them notice that you are job searching.  This is because revealing your current search could negatively impact your current role, responsibilities, and relationship with supervisor and co-workers.  Managers could even interpret the news that a member on their staff is searching as a veiled threat.

When telling your boss could go bad

One higher education professional engaged in a search decided to reveal their intention to the executive management of the university. That professional was then let go from her current position for reasons not related to performance.

There are as many reasons not to reveal your current job search with your manager as there are to share it. Though before you make your choice, it is most important to consider your relationship with the institution as a whole. Some employers might consider your intentions “treasonous” and may even take steps towards filling your current position before you even complete your search.

Keeping it quiet

So if you don’t have a good working relationship with your supervisor, then I recommend keeping your job search quiet and to yourself. I know that this might be difficult to do, given the kind of work that student affairs professionals do, but it’s worth it to evaluate your position to determine if keeping it quiet is what makes sense for you.

Part of making that evaluation is mitigating the potential risk that might occur if word of your search got out before your decision to share information. You don’t want to put your current job at risk (especially if you are still in the early stage of your search).  So keeping it quiet at this stage is a good move towards maintaining your own personal job security.

Keeping your search quiet also puts you in the driver’s seat by maintaining control of your relationship and the information that you share about your professional development.  Most of the time your transition to a new position at a new institution will be celebrated. Other times, it could lead to doubt, despair, and even retribution.

Two particular caveats to think about when job searching with your supervisor in student affairs is the size of our field and your relationship with your direct colleagues. Student affairs is already a pretty small network, so it’s not unlikely that news of your search would get back to your supervisor.

Unless your search is public because of the end of your graduate assistantship or internship appointment, I recommend keeping the progress that you have made finding a new position confidential. Remember, doing so keeps you in control when it comes to making decisions about what information people know and when they know it.

A case by case basis

There are many things to consider in these circumstances: your individual position, or relationship to others in the field, and your personal preferences.  Much of what you do when it comes to determining who knows that you’re doing will be made on a personal case by case basis.

You must consider your relationship to others as well as other important reasons related to your own professional development. Some of those reasons revolve around legal issues like privacy rights. While other reasons involve more subjective concepts like ethics, loyalty, dedication, self-interest, confidence, and security.

That means that it’s worth it to speak with a trusted mentor who is not affiliated with your current institution for advice on how to proceed with your search. Doing so, can help you mitigate some of the nuances of who to tell and when.

When to give notice

For other people in the student affairs job search, it may not be about IF they should give notice about their search, but WHEN they should give notice. The timeline between application and hiring in student affairs is a long one. That means it’s critical to manage the last few weeks or months of your current position with professional grace and dignity.

Telling your supervisor when you’re about to move on stems from a functional perspective as well as a professional one.  This is especially true if your current institution will need to arrange coverage while they search for a successor. That is why giving notice is a precarious balance between knowing when your new job is secure versus giving your current employer too much notice, which may make them suspicious.

This means that there are two main parties to consider when giving notice that you’ll be moving between positions. Your current institution and the future one. Informing your current supervisor of your search could negatively impact your relationship with the search committee and be seen as presumptuous.

That’s why most student affairs professionals opt to keep the earliest part of their search confidential because they are still in the preliminary stages. They don’t know yet if this first round interview will land them an offer. It’s just too early to tell, and the candidates have much to lose by revealing their search to their current supervisor at this stage in the process.

Again, perhaps the only time to be consistently transparent with your supervisor and colleagues is when you know your current position will be ending soon. That could happen for many different reasons including the end of a graduate assistantship, elimination of a grant funded position, or otherwise being downsized from your role.

There are two instances when I recommend student affairs professionals give notice of their intent to leave when conducting a job search. The first is when they reach the final interview (reference check) stage for a position and the other is after they’ve received an offer letter. I’ll go into each stage in more depth below.

Notice at the final interview

This is the earliest I recommend giving notice to your supervisor. When you have been brought in for an on-campus final interview it means that you’ve reached the terminal end of the job search process for that institution. The route that the hiring manager will take after this point will be to check your references if they are seriously considering you for the position. One of those references will be your current supervisor. At this point it makes most sense to inform them of your search since they will be contacted by your new institution.

Though this makes most sense from a search perspective, it does put you in a precarious position. You don’t know if you’ll definitely land the new job. So asking your supervisor to provide a reference for you, may be an unavoidable action that you’ll need to consider.

Taking this action means that at worst your current supervisor will begin looking for a replacement for you. At best it means additional tension in your working environment.

Which is why I recommend the next best time to inform your current supervisor: after receiving an offer letter.

Notice after receiving the offer letter

The most cautious and best approach is to not inform your supervisor about your new position until after you’ve received a confirmed offer letter from your new institution.  This means that you’ve successfully navigated your salary negotiation process and have received notice in writing or your new position.

Doing so means that you’ll be ready with at least two document at this stage: your signed offer letter for your new appointment and your resignation letter for your current position.

You should feel comfortable moving forward with your job search with your supervisor with these subjects covered. However, there will always be some additional complications and logistics to consider when searching for your next full time position while working.

Searching while employed

Searching for another full time job while employed can feel like a full time job itself. It requires you to use personal days or vacation days to get time off to interview on campus or use your lunch time to schedule first round interviews.

The key to successfully job searching while you’re currently employed revolves around keeping your productivity up at work while you are also searching. This can be tough in a field as demanding as student affairs. It is difficult, but it must be done in order to not create any riff, or suspicion, with your current supervisor.

In addition, you’ll want to be careful about how you use current institutional resources when you’re searching. Specifically, you don’t’ want to use the college’s internet when applying for jobs. Any traffic over their network can be reviewed. I recommend that you use your own personal device connected to a different network in order to search. That goes for phone calls too: use your personal phone outside the building or inside a private room for those phone screens.

I believe that it goes without saying, but you should also be careful about what you post on social media regarding your search. Nothing is ever really “private” even if you believe it is. That’s why it’s best to keep your search a secret until you are ready for the big reveal.

Finally, make sure that you maintain consistency at work. Especially in clearly observable areas like what you wear. If you usually wear business casual to your office on a regular basis, and one day you come to work wearing a shirt and tie or a pant suit, then you’re going to look suspicious.

Making the final transition

Job searching while you’re employed can be a tough proposition. It takes a lot of time, effort, and energy to do this while also working in a highly demanding field like student affairs. But doing so helps you move forward in the field while also serving our students.

With that in mind consider the following actions to take before moving on.

Tie up loose ends at your current position for your peers and direct reports. You don’t want to leave major projects, events, or programs open for other to pick up the pieces when you leave. Who knows? You might even work with these people again someday. They’ll remember how you left your current position.

This also means that leaving on a positive note will help you earn their recommendation for you in future roles. If you left on good terms and provided good work during your transition, then you can expect to receive good references from your colleagues into the future for your next big opportunity.

Click here for a PDF template on conversation starters to discuss your job search with your supervisor.

Happy searching,

Dave Eng, EdD

Provost, The Job Hakr