Don't play it fast and loose with your boss if she finds out you're looking for a new job; it will end up backfiring on you. Besides, lying is just not cool – even if it means you'll keep your job. Most workers don't know that agreements between employers and employees in most states are "at-will" agreements which can be severed at any time by either party without notice. While you certainly don't want to advertise you're looking for another job, there is a way to handle the situation if your boss finds out and come away without a scratch.
Don't lie. It's that simple. Be honest with your boss, because it will show that you have integrity and credibility. However your boss found out should not be a concern, either. Maybe a friend or co-worker unintentionally slipped and let the cat out of the bag. Another possibility is that someone hoping to get you in trouble with your boss told her you're looking for another job. In either case, be honest. After she asks, you need to tell her why.
There are many good reasons to look for work elsewhere. You can tell your boss that you want to change careers; you are moving out of the area – if this is true; you don't feel challenged; or you want to advance your career. Another good reason: you need to make more money. If you have a good relationship with your boss, you'll ideally want to use her as a job reference, so it's critical to avoid ticking her off. Depending on the situation at work, you might even get a promotion out of it, if you approach her with honesty.
The critical point you need to make is to let her know that you are committed to your job while you are there. Any good boss knows the essentials of your job and whether you could get a better job elsewhere. As long as you keep your boss in the loop, she can help you work out scheduling issues for interviews. Just don't let your responsibilities lapse. In fact, if you pay extra attention to your work and ensure that you still have your boss's back – she'll back you.
The worst-case scenario is that your boss decides to terminate you. But unless she fires you for subordination, you should receive unemployment pay, depending on the state in which you live. Most bosses don't resort to this tactic because they usually don't have someone ready to step into your shoes. If you find that you want to look for work elsewhere, it's a good idea to have savings put away and a backup plan if you lose your job. Being fired because you were looking for work elsewhere could also be the motivation you need to move on.
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