I am a journalism major at the University of North Carolina with magazine aspirations. Experience is my only potential safeguard against postgraduate poverty, and so for every season there is an internship. In my quest to fill summer, I lined up a phone interview with an Important New York editor at an Important New York magazine for three o’clock on a Tuesday afternoon.
When he didn’t call, as Important people are prone to not doing, I was unconcerned. Ever eager interns, after all, will always reschedule; the Romney brothers might not. So, I shot my would-be interviewer an email telling him I was still interested in the position and that I would be happy to speak with him another time.
Three days and two unresponded-to-emails later, I finally got an apologetic reply, in which the editor asked if I would be available to speak that afternoon. Under normal circumstances, I would have immediately, enthusiastically agreed. But it just so happened that I received this editor’s email as I was en route to my current internship at NEXT for Women.
The intern, or the internship candidate, schedules her life around companies not the other way around. She does not turn down the interviewer’s preferred interview time, but she also does not use her employer’s time for personal phone calls. As I pulled into NEXT, I was stuck. How does the responsible intern divide her loyalties when she is also an internship candidate?
Fortunately, I have an understanding boss who also happens to be a fountain of career advice (it is NEXT for Women, after all!), and could bounce my query off her. I was quickly assured that she had no problem with my taking a quick phone call, but talking about it lead us to a larger question: what is the etiquette on finding a new job while still employed elsewhere?
To answer my inquiry about how to handle one of job-searching’s stickiest subjects, I turned to Annie Favreau of Inside Jobs. As the managing editor of a website dedicated to maximizing career potential, Annie has answered countless questions about the tangled workplace web we all weave. Her advice on this one was, as expected, spot-on:
In this economy, it can make a lot of sense to look for a new job before leaving your old one. But it can be tricky business.
The most important rule? Don’t look for a new job on your current company’s time or technology. Create a private email address so you can keep any communications with potential employers separate from the rest of your work life. (This applies to any other people who are helping your search too, like references or informational interviews.) Also, don’t share your plans with any of your current colleagues.
While there are certainly exceptions to every rule, keeping your job hunt separate from your current work means you’ll burn many fewer bridges.
Clearly, I had followed exactly none of Annie’s advice by asking my current boss whether I should take a phone call from a potential boss. As I spoke with Annie, I felt myself grow increasingly grateful for the tolerance of my own employer. So, for all of your out their with bosses less patient than mine, let my faux pas be a lesson to you. Save yourself the awkwardness and burned bridges, and keep that extracurricular job search on the down low.