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You're progressing in an interview process; when do you tell your boss?

It’s February and in K-12 education, Spring is the peak time for launching a job search as contracts are being renewed (or not renewed) and budgets are being finalized! The Alma team prides itself on not only representing our clients and facilitating an inclusive, competency-based, and performance-driven process that mitigates bias but also coaching our candidates through each interview stage so that their skills and talents shine. Undoubtedly, the question comes up, “Should I tell my boss that I am interviewing, and if so, when?”. For a long time, the standard practice has been that you do not tell your employer about your job search until you have an offer in hand or until you believe that an offer is coming. 

However, this is a tricky question and an extremely personal decision. Therefore, our answer is “It depends”. There are two factors that we consider when answering this question:

1. The culture of your current organization
Some organizations have created an environment where developing a strong pipeline into leadership and succession planning is a priority.  This creates an environment where conversations about your future in the organization are part of the formal review process, as well as informal check-ins with your boss. If you can share information about your job search with plenty of lead time, then there is an opportunity to start cross-training another future leader in the organization. This could be a win-win for everyone. 

2. Your relationship with your boss
Regardless of the culture of the organization, your relationship with your boss is another consideration. If you have a supportive boss or board president, then you can let him or her know that you are looking for new or different opportunities. In addition to the discussions around succession planning, it can also lead to discussions about internal opportunities that you may not have considered. A supportive boss can also be helpful when it is time for formal reference checks. 

In either case, observe how your organization or current boss treats others who announce their departure. Did the treatment of that person change? Was he or she shut out of meetings or important discussions? Were they not considered for new projects? 

Additionally, in the urban education space, the network can seem small, and there are deep and wide interconnections between education leaders who are committed to improving the lives of underserved students and communities. Therefore, it is possible that your candidacy could ‘get leaked’ before you have had a chance to talk to your boss. It is important to get out in front of any leaks, especially if you are far along in the search process, even if the search firm has assured candidates of confidentiality.

Ultimately, determining whether to tell your boss about your job search or your status in an interview process should be considered on a case-by-case basis. Our final word of advice is that how you leave an organization is just as important as how you enter a new organization. Take your time to consider your approach and seek counsel from a trusted coach or mentor if you need that extra guidance.