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I am currently employed as an intern at a company I worked for over the summer who encouraged me to stay on board. They extended my internship as a result and have continually asked me if I am planning on staying, which appears to be contingent on my extension.

I am interested in applying to other companies for an internship, as the current one is great but unsustainable. Other companies also ask in their applications if they may use my employer as a reference. While I do believe my company has lots of great things to say about me and would, I fear losing my position for the time being which I need to stay afloat, and they appear to be unhappy with the prospect of me not staying on board.

I don't think it's polite to use someone as a reference without notifying them, but due to the precarious nature of my position, I feel that showcasing entertainment for another position might result in the loss of my current one, and am afraid to notify my manager of this. I am also afraid of saying it is not okay to ask my manager for a reference, as it would likely be a very strong one or disqualify me entirely if omitted.

Would it behoove me to notify my manager that I am applying elsewhere? Should I leave them as a reference, and only notify them if the application process proceeds? Should I not tell them at all or omit the reference? I am unsure of how to proceed.

  • "Should I leave them as a reference, and only notify them if the application process proceeds?" Absolutely. Do that. – Fattie Nov 8 '18 at 3:24
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    @Fattie Including somebody as a reference without securing their agreement first seems risky. What happens if the application proceeds, OP notifies them, and then they decline to give a reference? – Geoffrey Brent Nov 8 '18 at 4:44
  • @GeoffreyBrent , you may well be correct. I guess I was thinking more "Company .. Supervisor .. " – Fattie Nov 8 '18 at 5:53
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    @gnasher729 Could be a cultural thing but, everywhere I've worked, not asking or notifying an individual in advance would be considered fairly impolite (although just putting the Company/HD Dept. in general terms would be seen as fine). As much as anything else, if the prospective employer realises then they may note down "willing to volunteer others for tasks without their permission". – Chronocidal Nov 8 '18 at 9:25
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    @gnasher729 This is simply wrong. There are many good reasons why a manager might refuse to give a reference, e.g.: they might not know the person well enough to give an adequate reference (or might feel unable to give a positive one), they might not have the time to do so, their company may forbid them giving references, or they may be unwilling to give out private information about an employee without that employee's clear permission. Also, as a manager, it's much easier for me to give a reference if I have advance warning that I'm going to be asked for one. – Geoffrey Brent Nov 8 '18 at 13:42
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You are asking loads of "should I" questions. We cannot really answer them for you (and asking "What should I do?" is actually a reason to close a question), but I'll take them in the spirit of "What are my options?" and try to give some pointers.

[...] due to the precarious nature of my position, I feel that showcasing entertainment for another position might result in the loss of my current one, [...] Would it behoove me to notify my manager that I am applying elsewhere? Should I leave them as a reference, and only notify them if the application process proceeds?

The problem here is - you must make up your mind which risk to take. As far as I can see, you have two options:

  • Try to keep it a secret that you are looking for a new position, even if that means not being able to use them as a reference.
  • Accept them being used as a reference, with possible consequences from them.

Only you can decide what is best for you, given the circumstances. However, some points you may consider:

  • You write that "companies also ask in their applications if they may use my employer as a reference". If they ask, that may mean they are open to the possibility that you do not want them to contact your former employer. Talk to them and explain your concerns - maybe they are willing to forego the check (or maybe not, but there's probably no harm in asking).
  • On the other hand, even if your old employer learns you are looking elsewhere - why should they hold it against you? You are not married to them, and don't owe them service for the rest of your life, and they know that. There is nothing unprofessional about looking for alternativ options, and even quitting (with a reasonable notice period). If you do good work, the company would be foolish to fire you because you are looking at other options (though there are foolish companies out there).

All in all, my personal advice would be to try and avoid new employers contacting your old employer if the new employer is willing to go along with it. If they insist, tell your manager about it and let him/her be contacted. Yes, there is a certain risk the manager will hold this against you, but IMHO stopping your job search because of this is even worse. But in the end, it's your call.


As further reading, here's an article on a situation similar to yours: No -- You May Not Contact My Current Employer

  • I appreciate your help. I apologize for the ambiguity, I'm new to this site, if this question needs to be closed I don't mind. – user94329 Nov 8 '18 at 16:09
  • @user94329: You're welcome :-). The question is mostly fine - it's just that asking "What should I do?" is not really appropriate here, as that's something you must decide for yourself. But in its current form, the question can remain I think. – sleske Nov 9 '18 at 8:06

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