I was caught and there was no way to deny it.
Thinking I had covered all my bases for discreetly searching and interviewing for a new anesthesia job, there was one thing I didn’t anticipate. And it had me dumbfounded and furious at the same time.
The Assistant Medical Director of the group I interviewed with reached out to their close friend to ask about me as an anesthesia clinician and team player. Their close friend…
My current chief.
Now there are a lot of things we could unpack here about the Assistant Medical Director asking my current boss whether I would be a good fit for their group before they even made me a job offer, but it doesn’t matter.
I was busted.
Luckily, I had a heads up from someone that my leadership knew I was interviewing for anesthesia jobs. This gave me a chance to prepare for the awkward conversation instead of being blindsided with them asking “So I heard you are looking for a new job.”
Tell the Truth
Whether you know your boss knows or it comes out of the blue, when you do get the question, be honest. Don’t try to wiggle your way out of it by saying, “Why would you say that?” or laughing it off as ridiculous. If they are asking, it’s because they have some intel on your job hunting.
The truth is you’re looking for a job and could be possibly leaving. Lying will just make it worse, especially if you end up not taking the job.
So give them the truth. But keep it simple and maybe sugar coat it a little bit so you don’t sound like you can’t wait to get out of there. Try starting the conversation with, “To tell you the truth, I have been looking to see what’s out there.”
Now the Important Part
Don’t leave it hanging there. You’ll have to follow it up with a reason to cover yourself and open up a conversation. Everyone’s “why” for leaving will be different, but here are a few scenarios to help guide you if you are caught in the same situation.
In my case, it was a job literally down the road that I was invited to apply for by a former colleague. I wasn’t originally looking, but when the suggestion came up I thought why not check it out.
So when I finally ran into my chief, and they asked me if I was looking for a new job I said, “To tell you the truth, I went for an interview because a person I know works there and it sounded like an interesting opportunity.” Now I added, which wasn’t completely true, “But I don’t think it’s what I am looking for in a job.”
That way there would be no follow up questions and we could move on. However, if the offer came in and I accepted it, I could easily say, “After much consideration, the opportunity was too good to pass up”. At least for the time being there would be no hard feelings.
My friend used this line when she was confronted, “I am worried about the prospects of the group and need more stability in my life”. This was completely true. Her anesthesia department was cycling through anesthesia management groups like me flipping through Instagram.
The hospital was on the decline and she was starting a family. Instead of being stressed out about waiting for the next shoe to drop or filling out credentialing paperwork every couple years, she wanted peace of mind.
In this scenario make sure to expand on the changes you’ve seen and, although you love the group, you’re concerned and stressed about your future. No anesthesia medical director can fault you for those feelings you are experiencing, and if they do, it’s just another sign to move on.
Sometimes you want more than just showing up to work and practicing anesthesia. Sure, you are probably already on different committees or head up different initiatives within the department, but you want to take the next step in leadership. You want to be the Medical Director or Chief Anesthetist.
When confronted about your job hunting, be honest and say, “I’m ready to move up. Currently there are no opportunities in the group and the only option was to look outside”. You might be surprised and they might create a role to make you Assistant Medical Director after the conversation or come to find out the current leadership was looking to step down in the near future.
If it doesn’t work out this way at least they know your intentions. Good leadership will be happy for you and might even might make a few calls to help you land that next position.
There is no doubt it’s going to be a little awkward after this conversation. That’s why it’s important to finish the conversation by thanking them for being understanding and guaranteeing your commitment to provide excellent patient care.
The anesthesia community is small and it’s important not to burn any bridges. Continue to work as if you were auditioning for your current job. Giving breaks, asking if there is anything you can do and just being a great team player.
Maybe you don’t receive an offer, jobs fall through at the last minute (you don’t have to tell them this), or you just decide to stay. Whatever the case, by continuing to be a rockstar during the whole process you’ll be appreciated if you decide to stay.
And if you do leave, you’ll always have a place to come back to.