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?

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