I am in a dilemma; I am seeking a new position in a system of 'good ole boys' and am somewhat fearful of retaliation.

I am in great standing with my present boss with all positive reviews and evaluations, however I am seeking a change to make myself more available for my family and save traveling expenses. I feel confident that my boss would say only positive things, and would likely not want me to leave, but am realistic that if I don't get the new position and return to the current placement, it would be an extremely uncomfortable.

In my line of work, it is not an option to say "references available upon request."

  • This has a fairly close duplicate here but that question is closed due to a dubious duplicate itself... – Telastyn Jun 10 '14 at 14:50
  • does your boss know that availability to family and commute costs are an issue for you? If you've never had that conversation, I'm not sure you can discuss leaving for these reasons and getting a recommendation with no repercussions. – user8365 Jun 10 '14 at 16:42

This is a conversation you should have with him. If you don't feel comfortable letting him/her know that you're looking for alternate employment, then you should not consider listing this person as a reference. If you're in a market where the "old boy network" can play against you, then that might just be something you have to deal with when you get to it.

If your boss is as good a boss as you seem to indicate, then having this conversation is only a positive for both sides. Your boss should want good things for you and your career. He/She won't want to hold you back or keep you in a situation that is less than ideal for you. Also, by having this open honest conversation, you're giving them the opportunity to prepare for your eventual leaving. While it's an uncomfortable conversation to have, it really is win/win all around. You get the positive reference you need, they get the time to prepare to replace you (and believe me, no one is irreplaceable), and you ultimately get to move to a position that is more ideal for you.

If your boss is not this kind of person, then it is far easier to explain an exclusion in your references without being negative about it than to risk alienating a good contact.

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