This appraisal season, here's what you can do if your boss catches you looking for a new job

Maybe your co-worker accidentally let the cat out of the bag. Maybe your interviewer happens to be your boss’ brother. Maybe you left your resume in the office printer.

And, despite your best efforts to hide it, you have been caught looking for a new job. Do not panic! Here's what you do:

Be Honest To Confess The last thing you want to do when you’re caught in the middle of a job search is to deny it. Instead, confirm their suspicions and give them a reason. If you’re leaving because of relocation, say it. If you’re leaving because you’re looking for career advancement you can’t get in your current company, say it. There’s no reason to hold back on your honesty in this situation and it will reflect better on you in the long run. As long as you frame it positively and don’t blame your departure entirely on your boss, they will typically be understanding and often supportive of your decision.

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Explain Your Reason If you want to work in a different field entirely, share that with your boss. It’s the “It’s not you, it’s me” line for your career—except that it often works. Saying, “I’ve learned so much from this job, and I love working with you, but I’ve decided I want to transition from finance to marketing” will definitely soften the blow to your boss.

If you’re looking for a new job because your company or department is going through any kind of hard times, restructuring, or other turmoil, be honest with your boss. Elaborate that you know what’s been going on, and that while you love your job, it makes you nervous that you may be unemployed.

Assure Them You’re Still Doing Your Best What your boss is really worrying about when they find out you’re looking for a new job is getting someone into your position before you drop the ball on something. Admittedly your focus is split when you’re doing a job search—half the time you’re thinking about your current job, half the time you’re thinking about your job search—so it’s important to reassure your boss that you’re doing everything you can to stay vigilant and do your best while you’re still at the company. Of course, showing your commitment is even better than saying it. Keep doing a stellar job and your boss will be relieved of their fears.

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Thank Them For Understanding Hopefully your boss is taking the professional approach, understands your honest reasoning, and sees that you’re still committed to your work. If so, thank them! This small display of appreciation will help you maintain a positive relationship with your boss which may come in handy if you need a professional reference down the road.

You’re ready to move on but you weren’t planning on telling your boss until you had a concrete offer. Unfortunately, they found out on their own. That’s okay! Do the three things above to control any damage that may be caused and keep vigilantly applying to new positions. Things may be awkward for a bit but, ultimately, you decided to start this job search for a variety of reasons and that’s the important thing to focus on. Good luck finding the perfect new opportunity for you!