When do I tell my boss I'm applying for another job?
March 20, 2012 8:51 AM   Subscribe

When should I tell my supervisor about a job within our organization that I intend to apply for?

I work at a large public university in an administrative capacity. I've been here for almost 6 years and was reclassified (promoted) last year. My supervisor (George) has been very supportive of my career and furthering my professional development; we get along well. Additionally, things are not so great within our department due to a lot of organizational change. My current job has never been a great fit but I think I've done well and I seem to be respected within my group.

A job has recently been posted that I'm interested in. It's a better match for my skill set and my interests. It is within a different unit at the university albeit one that we (George and I) work with frequently. The person who would be my supervisor (Becky) is well-known by everyone in my department and my department and hers frequently collaborate. The job is probably slightly senior to the one I currently have though definitely not above the level of George. He's a director within my department; I'd be an assistant director within the new department.

When do I tell George that I'm applying for the assistant director position? Before I even submit the application? That sort of seems like jumping the gun a little and it's not a sure thing that I'd even be interviewed for the job so I'd prefer not to needlessly stir things up. On the other hand, George may be helpful in positioning myself for the job and since everybody knows each other, I'm sure word would eventually get out.

I've briefly mentioned to Becky that I'm interested in the job to see what her response would be. She was neither encouraging nor discouraging and I couldn't really get a read from her as to her thoughts.
posted by Mrs Roy G Biv to Work & Money (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My company's HR policy states that a staffer needs to inform their supervisor when they are selected for an interview with a different department, which I think seems like a good time.
posted by JannaK at 9:06 AM on March 20, 2012

Yes, get his support before even submitting an application.
posted by lizbunny at 9:07 AM on March 20, 2012

You may need to refer to HR policy for this one. Usually I think it's prior to an interview, not an application... but the fact that Becky was very neutral about your potential application for the position is interesting. Not necessarily discouraging, but if she and George are close you might want to run it by him sooner rather than later.
posted by sm1tten at 9:13 AM on March 20, 2012

Where I work it's prior to the application. Because your Supervisor/Manager needs to sign-off on it before the other department can seriously consider you.
posted by zombieApoc at 9:19 AM on March 20, 2012

I think the HR policy, if one exists, is mostly irrelevant, except in that it sets a point in the process that you can't notify George any later than. But if there is a policy that says that you have to notify him prior to an interview, I certainly wouldn't wait that long just because the policy says you can - this is mainly a question of politics, not policy.

You really want George to hear about this from you, and not from Becky or through the grapevine. This is so he doesn't feel like you're going behind your back. Also, this way, when Becky does contact him, formally or informally, to get a reference, he's not hearing about it for the first time, which is certainly not going to be a good situation for you. Given how close George and Becky are, that means you should tell him now.

The exception would be if you think that George would make your life more difficult in your existing job just because you tell him you're considering an internal transfer, but based on your description it doesn't sound like you have that kind of a relationship at all.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 9:23 AM on March 20, 2012

I can't find anything on the HR website. There are about a million policies and procedures listed and I can't easily figure out if there's a policy about notifying a supervisor.
posted by Mrs Roy G Biv at 9:28 AM on March 20, 2012

Make it a positive. George, you know I love the Widget Dept. However, there's a posting for asst. dir. in gizmos, and I'm planing to apply. Of course, I wanted to talk to you about it 1st. I'd still be able to work with you and Terry and Pat, etc. Ask George for advice and a reference.
posted by theora55 at 9:32 AM on March 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

I can't find anything on the HR website. There are about a million policies and procedures listed and I can't easily figure out if there's a policy about notifying a supervisor.

If it's not easily findable on the website, then you can and should just track down a phone number for the HR department and place a call.
posted by Tomorrowful at 9:32 AM on March 20, 2012

I have already contacted HR to confirm the closing date for applications and the salary range mentioned that I was interested. I could ask the guy that as well but I tend to agree that it's not really the policy that I'm interested in - more the politics since everything is rules by politics here!
posted by Mrs Roy G Biv at 9:35 AM on March 20, 2012

I would frame it as advice. Go to George and say something like:

"I really enjoy working here and I appreciate the opportunities for advancement. As you know, I'm interested in gizmos, and there is an opening for asst director in that department. Do you think it would be a good idea for me to apply?"

This gives him the opportunity to provide relevant context you may not know (Becky has a favorite internal candidate, Becky thinks you aren't qualified), and frames it as a discussion/mentoring conversation - not you asking for permission or letting him know you're doing it. Secondary value is that he probably will give you useful advice about positioning yourself and/or offer to put in a good word with Becky.
posted by rainydayfilms at 9:38 AM on March 20, 2012 [4 favorites]

You probably have an HR policy about this, but for any internal job, I've always gone to my supervisor before I've submitted an application. I've shown them the job posting and told them that I'm interested in applying for the job. Some supervisors have been great about giving me feedback and being supportive, others annoyed that I'm trying to move up but the HR policy has covered me in those cases.

Tell George now because you probably should have said something to him before you said something to Becky. Because now if Becky says something to George (which she should so that George is aware of what's happening in his department) it doesn't make you look great.

A supervisor should expect that developing talent is part of the job. George should be willing to talk to you about your interest in the job and give you a fair assesment of whether you're a good fit based on the job posting. If George isn't that sort of supervisor, well, there's not much you can do but fall back on the HR policy and expect him to be professional if not always totally supportive.
posted by GilvearSt at 9:55 AM on March 20, 2012

I think if you're only concerned about the politics, you should've talked to George before you talked to Becky. But now, do it before you submit your application.

The problem, of course, if that what if George has been blowing smoke up your butt, really don't want you to leave, is gently discouraging, or you flat out don't get it. The next steps following any of those scenarios are probably just as important.
posted by sm1tten at 11:28 AM on March 20, 2012

Okay. So I mentioned my interest to my boss, George and he was very supportive and basically just suggested I talk to a bunch of other people (including Becky's boss). He also thought I be great at the position so there's that. I've only got a couple days until the applications are due so I'll probably submit and then do some more investigating.
posted by Mrs Roy G Biv at 2:09 PM on March 20, 2012

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