Should I approach my manager if I have applied for a new job? It is a question that you may face sometime in your career. There is no one right answer. Let’s discuss what you should be thinking about before telling your manager that you want to transfer to another part of the company or you want to change companies.

The New Job is Inside your Company

If the new position you want is within your current company, then talking to your boss may be a good decision. However, there are organizational cultures where initiating career movement is not welcome. Here’s an example:

A few years ago, a career coaching client came to me because he wanted to make move from the Engineering organization into a business role. When he approached his manager about supporting his career change, the manager could not believe he wanted to leave the Engineering organization! The engineer languished in the department for a few years until he was finally able to make the career move. If his manager was supportive, the career move would have been much quicker.

There are managers who support upward mobility within an organization or company. The conversation you have is just as important and should be carefully thought through before you approach them.

Many companies have formal Human Resources policies about inter-company moves. Review what the proper procedure is in your organization. Let’s say your company has a job posting system where employees are free to apply to internal jobs. In this case, you will want to discuss your career goals with your manager and ask for their support in the process. The reason I suggest this approach is that your manager may be informed by Human Resources about your application activity and it is better that they hear it from you first.

Applying to a Position outside your Company

Perhaps your boss is blocking your promotion or you believe there are no other career opportunities in your current organization. When you want to leave a company for a new position, carefully consider if you should discuss it with your manager. As soon as you tip your manager off that you may leave, expect your manager will treat you differently.

Managers reward company loyalty and when you are actively looking for a new job, they will question your loyalty. Your manager will tell their boss that you are actively searching for a new job and that’s when your credibility and power in the organization deteriorates.

If you think your boss is one of those rare managers who will not treat you differently, it’s time to reflect on why you believe their loyalty is with you and not the company.  There are managers – albeit very few – that have your interests at heart more than the company’s.

“I Need my Manager’s Reference” is Not a Good Reason

Are you thinking you need to talk to your manager because you think you need a reference? Most companies who try to recruit you from another company realize that asking for a reference within your current organization is not practical. Think of other people who can serve as a reference that have left the company and do not put your current employment situation at risk.

In general, I don’t recommend you talk to your manager about leaving until you have a job offer when you are leaving your organization.