Q: I have seen an advert for a job in a neighbouring authority but know that if I apply for it my current boss will find out as she knows people who work there. I don’t want to miss this opportunity but equally don’t want to make my life hell if I don’t get the job and have to stay put with everyone knowing I tried to leave. What should I do?
A: Go for it. There is nothing wrong with applying for jobs and possibly being unsuccessful. The mathematics of numbers of applicants to vacant posts means it is inevitable that the majority of applications are unsuccessful at some stage, but your colleagues may be supportive of your attempt rather than be judgemental of it.
The tone of your question, however, leads me to think that there might be something else that is worrying you. Perhaps all is not well in your relationship with your current manager or team?
The best approach is to make time to sit down with your manager and explain that you are thinking of moving. All local authorities will insist on a reference from your current (or last) employer, so this is not something you can keep a secret for too long.
Supplying references is most managers’ least favourite activity since it does nothing to lessen their own workload, so it is at the very least courteous to ask before supplying a referee’s name. The other point about talking it through with her is so you can get an idea about what will appear in the reference, and can prepare yourself to deal with any tricky questions later.
An equally good reason for talking to your manager is that, if she knows the other authority, she should be in a position to give you some useful background information on the people and their roles, which again will enable you to think ahead and match your application more closely to their requirements. This is just the sort of added value that makes one application stand out and you shouldn’t waste that opportunity.
As regards avoiding being bombarded with colleagues asking whether you’ve got the new job or not, be open with your manager but ask her to keep your application confidential for the time being. It’s lovely when your colleagues are genuinely interested in your progress but it can be somewhat nerve-racking when you’re waiting every day for that all-important phone call or letter. You can expect your boss to respect that confidentiality.
Alison Sanger is a social care HR consultant
A: In my experience, trying to keep things like this quiet when you know that everyone knows everyone else is pointless. It’s much better to be upfront about the fact that you are going for a new job and why. You might even find that you are suddenly offered a reason to stay – perhaps the chance to go for a similarly challenging post in your current place of employment that you might not have been considered for had you not been honest about your ambition and need for a change.
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