A vital part of the resignation process for most people is the need to find a new job. Unless your reputation is so hot that you’re headhunted for a new company, you’re going to need to get out there, make applications and do some interviews. If you don’t want to tell your boss you’re leaving just yet, it’s this final stage that’s the problem – the need to be at a particular time and place, in the right state of mind, wearing suitably smart clothes.
There are two opposing forces at work that must be reconciled satisfactorily for both the employer and employee. Your boss expects you to work all your paid hours; personal and professional concerns that fall outside your responsibilities at work should be addressed in your own time. Meanwhile, your time away from work is sacred – career development activities, interviews and so on should not intrude on it if possible. Something has to give. How can your boss’s claim on your time be subverted in such a way that you are able to attend interviews without jeopardising your position? After all, if you don’t like the look of the new job you’re going for, you’ll probably want to carry on as usual with your present employer. What they don’t know can’t hurt your career.
You need to minimise the impact on your holiday allowance, maintain the appearance of being a loyal employee and somehow use all the smoke and mirrors available to disguise your occasional brief absences. Here are some suggestions (serious and not so serious, as usual) about how to do all three without raising suspicions.
Look ’em straight in the eye
Your employer would be displeased if you took time off to find another job; you’ve used up all of your holiday allowances; you want a whole day to prepare for the interview you know is going to lead to the job of your dreams. But you want to have a job to come back to if it all goes wrong. You’re going to have to make something up. Think along these lines:
- You have to be in because your boiler (cold climate) or air conditioning (warm climate) has broken and an engineer is going to need a whole day to install the new system
- There was a break-in at your flat.
- You’re having cable television installed
- There are dozens of appliances in your house – any one of them could break down at any time. Each is an excuse waiting to happen
- Your doctor wants to give you a thorough examination
- The dentist needs to go to work on your mouth
- The optician needs to take a look at your eyes
- Your psychiatrist needs to lift the lid on your mind
- You have some medical condition, you know, down there, that is so personal that you’d really rather not discuss
- You’re feeling depressed and need Prozac
- You’ve taken Prozac and are feeling so elated that you don’t think you could contain yourself
- Your relationship is on the brink…
At least one member of I-resign.com has used the excuse “I’m sorry, I cannot come to work today. I saw a squirrel being run over near my house and had to call the RSPCA. I was terribly traumatised by the whole experience. Please forgive my absence”. You could try this, perhaps using situations that include beached whales, puppies in culverts or even a story that revolves around a child wedged in an abandoned well. It doesn’t matter as long as you’re suitably convincing.
“Events, dear boy, events…”
This is a variation on the lying technique. Rather than relying on total fiction, you instead fabricate a situation from real-life events that may be taking place that day. London seems to be a very good city for these purposes. Within the past few months, its citizens have had to put up with strikes on the railway and underground system; civil disturbance and police action; and even periodic shootings and bombings.
The first of these, strikes and riots are usually advertised weeks or even months in advance. May Day was marked in the mental diaries of many Londoners throughout March because it was billed as the day when thousands of insane anarchists would burn down the capital. The wisest would have planned an interview for that day. As it turned out, several thousand demonstrators and probably a couple of hundred passers-by were detained in Oxford Circus for hours. Maybe you’ll be able to use the excuse of being trapped by a cordon of drone-like policemen while out shopping innocently for a sandwich next May Day?
Transport strikes can throw some cities into complete chaos. London is one of them – use this chaos as a smokescreen for your job-hunting activities. The only thing to remember when using this cast-iron excuse is to book a taxi week in advance if possible – you can be certain a cab will be impossible to arrange on the day itself. Sometimes it doesn’t even take a strike to render the transport network useless; faulty trains, closed stations and atrocious traffic could swallow up any number of your working hours without a trace. However, you must consider the possibility that the person taking the interview may themselves be unable to turn up.
Finally, in this category, whole postcodes are sometimes rendered out of bounds by a bomb threat or armed criminals. Cordons can be thrown up in minutes only to disappear just as quickly if there has been a false alarm. Few of these events make the news, usually only if something terrible actually happens, but they cause enormous disruption for people who are just trying to go about their business. If the city is a little tense, these inconveniences or the anticipation of them can be transformed into opportunities.
Now you see me…
If your interview is to take place within a few minutes walk of your current job, it may be possible to ‘disappear’ for a short period at any time of day. A casual remark to a nearby colleague that you ‘have to sort something out at the bank’ or ‘oh no! I must get a birthday card for…’ will probably be sufficient to cover your tracks for a useful amount of time. Take care to avoid being seen going in or coming out of your competitor’s office – proximity can work against you as it’s difficult to account for occasions when your boss walks by as you glad-hand your interviewer on the doorstep.
You may have plenty of opportunity to practice this technique if recruiters have made a habit of calling you during office hours. Skulking out of the office with mobile phone affixed to ear, muttering sotto voce “Er, yes I think can” in response to their “Can you talk right now” come-on lines is something to avoid. It has got to be one of the big signs that you’re planning to make a more permanent exit. Sometimes the streets in business districts throng with shifty individuals discussing arrangements that will land them a new job.
Common sense dictates that you won’t be wearing your best suit to work if you need to visit the shops, especially if you’re usually to be found slouched in front of your desk wearing painfully fashionable clothes that even a bum would scorn.
Honesty is not so much the best policy as a sign that you’ve managed to find work with a good firm and an understanding boss where the motivation for quitting has nothing to do with the quality of your current job. If you have nothing to hide and a reputation for faultless integrity that you want to take with you, go for it and don’t worry. Calmly inform the boss that you’ve seen an opportunity elsewhere which you have to pursue; assure him or her that your decision to do so is in no way a personal criticism, that your loyalty should not be doubted.
This is not likely to be the approach most people feel able to take. However, some employers would welcome this level of honesty in their employees – perhaps the sort of company you should be looking for. If you’re looking to move to a new position within the same firm, you may have to tell your boss about any interviews anyway, regardless of what this means for your working relationship.
The Flip Side
OK, you’ve successfully managed to escape work and you’re on the way to the interview. Out of nowhere, you’re paralysed by anxious waves of doubt and reluctance. Renewed concern that the job will not be right for you; worries about over-or under-qualification; a sudden recollection of horror stories told to you by exhausted employees at the firm – they all overcome you at once. There’s no way you’re going to show up. Fear not! Any of the excuses above can be recycled and used for interview-cancelling purposes. If you become a true master of the excuse technique, you may even avoid having to turn up for work ever again.