Yeah, I'm... uh... sick again.
March 31, 2011 2:22 PM   Subscribe

I need to look for another job discreetly, if you know what I mean. But how?

My boss watches me like a hawk. I'm hourly, and my work hours are not flexible in the slightest. I do have some personal time but my boss is the type who easily becomes suspicious.

If I start having frequent doctor appointments or calling off sick, she will not hesitate to demand a note from the doctor. Over the course of a few weeks I might be able to get away with one unexpected "personal emergency", one doctor appointment and maybe half a day off with a few days notice, but any more than that and I'm sure she will start getting suspicious. Long lunches would be no less conspicuous than anything else.

Taking an entire vacation day and pretending it's for an outing of some sort would be possible if I have enough lead time, but judging by my last job search I don't always get a lot of notice. "Can you interview tomorrow?" is pretty common.

My employment service seemed to think it would be a problem to try to schedule interviews during non-business hours. I'm nowhere near the level where interviews include dinner.

I'm really nervous about this. What if my boss confronts me about whether I'm looking for another job? What do I say? If she fires me for it, can I get unemployment or is that considered some kind of "gross misconduct" or "voluntary quit"?

What do people do in this situation?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (20 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
A lot of employers are flexible and will schedule interviews during off hours.
posted by TLCplz at 2:38 PM on March 31, 2011

Easy. You tell prospective employers that you need to interview in off-hours, because your current job is full-time and inflexible. So you interview at lunch hours, weekends, evenings.

This is very common, employers are used to it, and has the side-effect of hinting at why you're shopping around without actually requiring you to say bad things about your current employer.

(Tip two: don't say bad things about your current employer.)
posted by rokusan at 2:38 PM on March 31, 2011 [3 favorites]

Interview off hours and at the end of the day. Work it so that if you need to take time off, you are just leaving a few hours early to change and get ready... I like 6:00PM phone interviews and 3:30 or 4:00 in-person interviews, dependent on how far they are from where I live.
posted by Nanukthedog at 2:46 PM on March 31, 2011

I think you can probably book vacation time or any other time off you're entitled to if necessary. In my experience, at low- or entry-level jobs it is not easy to get interviews outside of work hours, however you can arrange phone interviews over lunch if time is an issue, or else coordinate something around a day you can book off. You may even be able to tell your boss you have a personal commitment you need to attend to and so-and-so time and make up any hours missed later.

If your boss asks you if you're looking for another job, say no. Regardless, I don't think it would be legal where I live to fire someone for looking for another job--it is not voluntarily quitting if you haven't quit and it is not misconduct to look for other work outside of work hours or on authorized time off. You should be able to get unemployment in a worst case scenario, unless I'm really naive about how things work in the US.
posted by Hoopo at 2:47 PM on March 31, 2011

What if my boss confronts me about whether I'm looking for another job? What do I say?

My standard response to all of my bosses has been something fairly vague such as "Well, I always have my eyes open."

If she fires me for it, can I get unemployment or is that considered some kind of "gross misconduct" or "voluntary quit"?

This really only applies if you are looking for a job while actually at work, on the clock. Otherwise, looking for a new job is not a basis for blocking unemployment.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 2:48 PM on March 31, 2011

My employment service seemed to think it would be a problem to try to schedule interviews during non-business hours.

Hey guys, did you see that? I mean I think anonymous should try to ask for off-hours, but let's assume it isn't possible.

Getting a note from a doctor is pretty easy. Do you have a regular doctor? I would call up the nurse and explain the situation. A note saying you came in for an examination is nothing for a sympathetic nurse to write. This is your best bet if your interviews are inflexible. Needing to go to multiple appointments is none of your boss's business.
posted by geoff. at 3:05 PM on March 31, 2011

Don't ask doctors or nurses to lie for you. They are professionals and doing so would put them in a very awkward position.

If you can afford it, can you ask to have your hours cut so you have, say, Friday afternoons off? You can couch in terms of needing more personal time. Then Friday afternoon becomes your default interview time.
posted by charmcityblues at 3:14 PM on March 31, 2011

Don't lie and say your were sick.

Taking an entire vacation day and pretending it's for an outing of some sort would be possible if I have enough lead time

You shouldn't need to offer any explanation, but if you say "personal day" instead of "vacation day" you are inviting fewer questions, even though bureaucratically they may be equivalent. If you are asked what you're planning, "errands" and "appointments" are both words that people shouldn't ask for further details on. I don't know what your field is, but I think it's acceptable to be able to say "I am not available for an interview during business hours on such short notice. If you're in a hurry, I'd be happy to meet during off hours. Otherwise I'll need to request some time off from work, which will mean a week or two delay." There may be employers who can't accommodate that, but it's a completely reasonable request, and most I think will be fine with it.
posted by aubilenon at 3:18 PM on March 31, 2011

If she fires me for it, can I get unemployment? Probably, because there's not sufficient cause.

You can say you have to schedule an appointment with a lawyer, to resolve some family issues. Or an accountant, for tax issues. Maybe you need to go to the airport to pick up a visiting friend, or take the car in to your mechanic to resolve a persistent problem in the electrical system. Use vacation time.
posted by theora55 at 3:19 PM on March 31, 2011

Also, don't worry about it until you have to schedule an interview. You may be surprised how easy it is to get away for a few hours, either first thing in the morning (that's my favorite - Need to let the furnace guy in!) or over the lunch hour. Hopefully you won't have to schedule more than one or two and that's not very suspicious.

If you don't normally dress up, start dressing a little nicer. And if someone asks you, "Why do you look so nice? You got a job interview? Har-har-har." You should laugh in their face and then with a twinkle in your eye, say "yes!" And then turn back to your work with a wave of your hand. I find that people think I'm joking when I say it like that.
posted by amanda at 3:38 PM on March 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have scheduled short-notice job interviews and blamed my sudden absence on an emergency vet visit. Also useful if you have an interview at the beginning or end of the day: "I had to go to the central post office depot to sign for a special package."

The former works well only if your boss doesn't know what sort of pet you have and isn't keeping tabs on its health. However, if you have a couple of interviews scheduled, it can be handy, because the dog/cat/parakeet/whatever had to go back for follow-up shots/surgery/pills, etc.

Good luck! Micromanaging, paranoid bosses are horrible.
posted by vickyverky at 4:13 PM on March 31, 2011

You might also look in your employee handbook and see what it officially says about personal time and sick time, and the notification process for them. Many jobs only require doctor notes if you take 5 consecutive days off. Privacy laws cover some things. You might be able to use phrases like "I have a doctor's appt" and then "I'm not comfortable discussing it" if pressed further.
posted by CathyG at 6:32 PM on March 31, 2011

If the company won't work with you a little to schedule the interview before or after normal business hours they are telling you a lot about what it will be like to work there.
posted by COD at 6:46 PM on March 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh, I don't know, COD. We don't know the location or type of employment OP is looking for. The job market is tight and there might be a dozen more convenient interviewees waiting in the wings.
posted by amanda at 6:59 PM on March 31, 2011

I had this exact same concern when I was looking for a new job. I had a year-long project I wanted to finish before leaving, so I was trying to time my exit strategically. Basically, all my co-workers knew I was job hunting. My boss's boss knew I was looking (and was a reference for me) for months before I actively started interviewing. At one point, in order to apply for a position at another site within my company, I even had to go and ask permission to apply from my boss's boss's boss, so she knew. But my boss didn't know anything about it, and if he suspected, he definitely didn't know how far I was in the process. Until the day I was scheduled to interview with that site, which happened to quite inconveniently coincide with a last-minute meeting my boss had to attend there. So just before he left the day before I asked him if we could talk. And I basically came clean, explained it was a dream job (it was) I'd been working toward and I didn't want him to run into someone at that site who asked about me (knowing he was from the same department/site) and caught him off guard. I wanted him to have a heads up. He was less upset I was looking at other jobs than he was upset that his boss's knew first.

That said, I lucked out that I was able to do all my interviews at lunchtime or on days I worked an odd schedule and could go in the morning. My final in-person interview at the job I ended up taking was on my birthday. I had requested that day off at the start of the year, so I completely lucked out. It helped too that I'd requested a week off a week later for my brother's wedding, so I was able to move to my new city during my already scheduled paid vacation.

Long story short:
1) Just be honest with you current boss. They know people move on. They have probably moved on themselves several times. They may even be looking for an exit themselves. Explain it's because you need to continue to grow or there's a job your current job and current boss have been preparing you for. A good boss wants you to improve, and realistically, there is a point in any job where you need to do something new to keep growing.
2) Try to schedule a few random vacation days if you can. You don't have to explain yourself. But it's very convenient to be able to say to an interviewer, I can meet on X day. And not have to scramble. It might even be good information for the cover letter... I am available to meet with you on X day. Or, I will be in X city on X day and would love to meet with you to discuss my candidacy. You get the idea.

Good luck!
posted by ilikemethisway at 7:41 PM on March 31, 2011

There are a lot of situations that require multiple absences: physical therapy, diagnosing some obscure stomach pain (see the regular doc, see the specialist, go in for tests, see the allergist, have sick day because of your mysterious ailment), a relative's death (the immediate death, the funeral, meeting with a lawyer about the estate, a vacation day to drive his stuff back to his family's house), getting illegally evicted and taking your landlord to court...

Anyway, I hope you'll find her to notice less than you might imagine.
posted by salvia at 9:26 PM on March 31, 2011

Also, as a supervisor, I would never say "you're sick again?" and not just because I'm not a jerk. Depending on what's going on with them, if the medical issue they're dealing with qualifies as "a disability," comments like that start to invite a lawsuit, which I found out when someone filed suit against a friend's coworker.
posted by salvia at 9:30 PM on March 31, 2011

If your employment service thinks you can get off hours interviews, then that's good!

If you have to miss some work and you can schedule an interview first thing in the morning, you can always call in late with "stomach issues" - it's conceivable that you could have weird stomach issues off and on. No doctors note, because you can say that you're not sure what the doctor would do anyway and you're trying over the counter remedies.

Remember that you aren't doing something wrong, so don't act all guilty. If she starts asking weird questions, go with something like "what are you talking about?!" with a smile, and if she pushes "why would you think that?!" with a smile. Or answer "I've been unlucky lately, with stomach issues/doctors appointments/vet appointments/family emergencies/transportation problems". Or "it's not like I'm anxious to miss work time, I'd rather be using my personal time on something fun instead of [whatever] !".

Good luck, you'll do great!
posted by mrs. taters at 6:05 AM on April 1, 2011

What if my boss confronts me about whether I'm looking for another job? What do I say? If she fires me for it,

Seriously you cannot be fired for 'looking' for another job. that is totally out of line and could actually land the employer in court in some countries.

In the past I've found its pretty easy to schedule an interview for 4pm, 5pm and duck out of work with some excuse.

"I really need to get to the bank before it closes etc.. "
posted by mary8nne at 9:15 AM on April 1, 2011

"Off hours" aren't just after work, right? Because in my experience, I have been able to schedule an 8 or 8:30am interview no sweat before work. You not only don't need time off but you look like a real go-getter in the process. Management -level types and HR people are way more likely to come in earlier than stay late. If you have to overlap the start of your work day, tell your boss you have regularly occurring medical appointments and you're scheduling them before work and may be late on occasion. IF boss presses, tell them that due to the nature of the appointments, you are not comfortable disclosing/providing a note. That should set off alarm bells to anyone who is in a supervisory role not to push you too far.
posted by SassHat at 9:58 PM on April 3, 2011

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