By Skip Freeman, CEO of Hire to Win Executive Search Group

At what point during her job search do you suppose Marissa Mayer, the current CEO of Yahoo, advised her boss at Google that she was “looking”? (The answer to this question, which may very well surprise you, is at the end of this article.)

The truth of the matter is, if you are like most people, you are happy in your job most of the time. That does not alter the fact, however, that there are also times when you may honestly wonder if you’re not overlooking other genuine career opportunities outside your current company. You may begin to feel that you might just be “settling” for what you now have in your current job and be leaving money and career advancement opportunities “on the table.” That’s when you are most likely to . . .

– Occasionally visit Indeed.com and similar online sites to see what may be available “out there.”

– Set up “saved searches,” so that the right career opportunities start being emailed to you.

–  Update your LinkedIn profile.

–  Begin receiving (and taking!) calls from “headhunters.”

. . . all simply to test the waters, of course.

And, since you are already flirting with the job market, you may decide to go on a few “dates,” better known as job interviews.

Again, though, simply to “test the waters.”

What happens if these interviews begin to strongly suggest that, as you somewhat suspected, you may indeed be overlooking some genuine opportunities to advance your career? Your adrenaline starts pumping, a new-found sense of excitement kicks, you start getting “butterflies” in your stomach, your heart beats bit faster, and then comes – GUILT!

Dealing with Guilt Feelings

“Why am I doing this?” you ask yourself. In answer to your own question, you’re quite likely to come up with answers such as these:

–  Because I am not totally happy with my current job, or at least not as happy as I know I could be.

–  I know for a fact that I am not being paid what I am worth.

– Will I ever receive a promotion, or am I destined to remain at basically the same level throughout my career with this company—no matter what I accomplish or how well I perform?

–  Why won’t my boss trust me with more responsibility and authority?

Still, the guilt feelings persist.

In order to alleviate these guilt feelings, you decide that the best thing to do at this point is to “come clean” with your boss. After all, you do have a good relationship with her – right? She told you during your last performance review that she genuinely cared about you and wanted only the best for you and your family, didn’t she? Certainly, the boss will want to do what’s right for you. Maybe, after you “cleanse your soul,” by telling her you’re “looking,” you might actually end up getting a nice raise, perhaps even a promotion. Right?

Wrong!

Two Reasons ‘Cleansing Your Soul’ with Your Boss is NOT a Good Idea

Why is talking about your job search with your current employer filled with significant risks to your career?

First, how can you tell, for sure, that you do indeed have a good relationship with your boss? Maybe you do indeed currently have a “good relationship” with her but it quickly sours once you’ve told her of your “indiscretions”.

Second, an employment relationship is not like a marriage contract or any other type of binding, legal contract or arrangement. Nonetheless, many people continue to view it as such. The fact is, almost all employment arrangements today are what’s known as “at will” arrangements. That means that, like political appointees, an employee “serves” at the pleasure” of the company. If and when your employer no longer wishes to keep you, you will be gone, gone, gone. Still, many of us want to think of our boss as a friend or even family, but that really isn’t true unless you work for a real family member.

If you currently find yourself facing a career crossroads of Should I Stay or Should I Go?, stop and ask yourself these questions:

–  If I stay where I am for the rest of my career, am I okay with that?

–  Do I still have more to do to complete my “story” in this job?

– If I were unemployed and had a chance to interview for my current job, would I do it?

– Money aside, do I really love this job?

If your answer to each of these questions is a resounding Yes, then stop looking for a new job opportunity now. Get control over the urge to confess to your current boss and get back to work!

Natural Outcomes of Telling Your Boss You are Looking

On the other hand, if your answer to any of these questions is No, then you may be considering letting your boss know you are looking for new opportunities. Should you?

The short answer is: Don’t even think about telling your boss you are looking unless you want your career to tank at your current company!

Easing your guilt by confessing to your boss inevitably leads to these consequences:

  • You will not be seriously considered for any promotions that may come up.
  • If you get a salary increase, it will be miniscule at best.
  • You will no longer even be considered for involvement in any long-term, high-profile company projects.
  • Your professional brand will be quickly and irretrievably tarnished within your current company.
  • Your great relationship and trust you thought you had with your current boss will soon head south.

Do you still believe that “coming clean” with the boss if you are “looking” is a good idea? I hope not. Don’t make the mistake so many excellent candidates tend to make by telling your boss you’re “looking.” You will be hard-pressed to ever realize a benefit from doing so.

Instead, take a cue from Yahoo CEO, Marissa Mayer. This savvy young executive demonstrated that she definitely knows how the hiring game is played.

The “advance warning” Ms. Mayer gave her boss at Google that she was “looking”—exactly 30 minutes before she left!

Skip Freeman is the President and CEO of The HTW (Hire to WinExecutive Search Group and author of the best seller Headhunter Hiring Secrets.