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Virtual Paralegalism

The Blog Formerly Known As Practical Paralegalism

Reader Question: Should I Tell My Boss I’m Looking for Another Job?

Reader Question:  Should I Tell My Boss I’m Looking for Another Job?

I have a question about when to tell my boss at my current job that I’m looking for another position. What’s the etiquette for this kind of situation? I’m not sure how it works if I fill out an online application that requires names and contact info for references. I really like the people I work with but not the kind of paralegal work I’m doing. I don’t want to burn any bridges. ~ An Understandably Anonymous Paralegal

Practical Paralegalism’s Answer:

I’m sorry about your current job situation, and I think you’re wise to keep an eye out for a better career fit for you.

Having said that, I don’t recommend telling your current boss you’re looking for another job. You don’t know how he or she will respond – worst case scenario could include immediate termination. If you need your paycheck, then you don’t want to risk this. This includes not discussing your desire to work elsewhere with colleagues that might gossip.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t start a dialogue with your boss about trying to make your current job more satisfying, if that’s a possibility.

Otherwise, I’d discreetly apply for jobs that interest you – not using any work resources, including the computer or fax machine. I know those online applications are crazy insistent about references, but I’d list references other than your current employer for now, unless you have an office manager, fellow paralegal, or associate that works there who already knows the situation and is willing to provide a reference – without letting the cat out of the bag. Most prospective employers understand that applicants do not want their current employers to know they’re looking for another job.

If you get a job offer you are going to accept, proper business etiquette is to give two weeks’ written notice. Again, an employer’s worst case response could be asking you to leave immediately upon receipt of your notice, so you should be prepared for that possibility.

I hope this is helpful, and I wish you the best in making a career change that’s right for you.

Readers, any other advice for legal staffers seeking a better opportunity?

4 Responses to Reader Question: Should I Tell My Boss I’m Looking for Another Job?

  1. I totally agree with the first response. However, just keep in mind sometimes it is difficult to have the best of both worlds. If you enjoy working with your current team you might consider if there is an opportunity for growth or movement to another area within the firm. If no other possibility exists, then I agree I would keep it to myself.
    Think about the fact that you might end up in another job that you love doing, but you might not fit in well with the staff. The second situation might be worse than doing a job you don't like.
    Also, consider the unemployment rate in the area and your job security at this point. Sometimes we all have to do work we don't like, but that may be what we need to do to pay our bills especially in this economy.
    I wish you the very best on your decision. I hope whether you stay or move to another firm that it will be a good decision for you.

    Best wishes,
    Bonnie Ruffin, NCCP
    Litigation Support Services Provided Nationwide

  2. When I left my last job in Big Law, I made the mistake of mentioning to my paralegal supervisor that I was planning on eventually relocating to another state and leaving the firm. Upper management got wind of this and it became a factor in my bonus calculations, which were supposed to reflect my prior years billables. My partner, who was aware of my plans, was candid enough to let me know how the information made it up to management. My advice? Don't tell anyone with whom you do not have 100% confidence. Though if you have a good relationship with your supervising attorney(s), they will appreciate the heads up.

  3. Bonnie, I think your advice to consider the possibilities that another job might be worse is rock solid. Making a list of pros and cons for leaving vs. staying, and also making a list of very concrete career goals might be helpful. If a move is made, it should be a carefully thought out one – not one that feels like landing in the frying pan.

  4. MR, that's rotten, but yet another good reason to keep plans to leave under your hat.

    Plus, I don't know why this just came to me, but making it known you're planning to leave could just be plain embarrassing, well, if you don't 😛

Contact Info:

Lynne J. DeVenny, N.C. State Bar Certified Paralegal

Owner & Virtual Paralegal, DeVenny Paralegal Services

Email: lynne.devenny[at]

Telephone: 336-582-0003

Inquiries are welcome, with free quotes available.

Meet Lynne:

Lynne DeVenny is a North Carolina State Bar Certified Paralegal with over 27 years of experience working on complex litigation cases, including medical malpractice, personal injury, workers’ compensation, and Social Security disability.

Disclosure: I am not a lawyer and cannot provide legal representation or legal advice.

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