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Don't Jump the Gun When Considering a New Job Search

By Kenneth Bredemeier
Special to washingtonpost.com
Friday, November 16, 2007 12:00 AM

When contemplating leaving your current employer, there is likely to be some level of uncertainty as to whether or not it's the right move. And once you have decided to embark on a new job search, is it OK to ask your current employer for a recommendation? More importantly, can you do it without damaging any work relationships?

That's the tricky terrain this employee is trying to navigate.

I'm a teacher and part-time administrator at a public charter school. Next year, I will be certified as an administrator and hope to attain a position as a full-time administrator. The school where I currently work, however, will be not be able to pay me what I would be qualified to make next year. I also don't think they would be able to offer me the position I desire, and therefore don't feel I can stay.

I will be applying for jobs starting in January for the next school year. I know that my managers would give me a shining recommendation as I've always been willing to go above and beyond the call of duty.

When and how should I go about asking for a recommendation? I don't want them to feel as though I'm abandoning them. And if I don't find anything within the parameters I mentioned, I'll probably stay.

Since this worker has yet to begin a new job search and is unaware of the types of positions that may be available after receiving her certification, she should postpone asking her employer for a recommendation, suggests Ronald McKinley, vice president of human resources for the Cincinnati Children's Hospital.

If this employee asks for a recommendation now, mentions McKinley, she's essentially advertising her anticipated departure. "When you ask for a recommendation, there are a lot of bosses who don't respond well," he says. "They might think 'this is not my long-term person,'" even if that person then decides to stick around or does not receive another job offer. Her main priority should be not to burn any bridges at the current job.

In the meantime, McKinley suggests the worker start an active job search to see if she gets any offers; perhaps one that is contingent on a successful review of professional references. It's at this point, he advises, that the worker may want to approach her current manager for further assistance via a recommendation.

Kenneth Bredemeier has six years of experience writing about the workplace. On the Job, a column addressing real worker questions about office relationships, corporate policies and workplace law, is written exclusively for washingtonpost.com. To submit a question, e-mail onthejob@washingtonpost.com. We reserve the right to edit submitted questions for length and clarity and cannot guarantee that all questions will be answered.

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