How do I handle getting caught at another company’s recruiting session?

Elaine Varelas provides guidance on how to handle running into your boss at another company’s recruiting session.

Q. I recently attended a company’s informational job recruiting session after work. The problem is that my boss was there as he is friends with the company representative who was giving the presentation. Now he knows that I am looking for a new job. Should I bring this up with him? And could I potentially use this as leverage for negotiating a salary bump?

A. While I’m sure it was awkward running into your boss at another company’s recruiting event, neither of you should make assumptions about why anyone attended the information session. Are you sure your boss was there because they're friends with someone at the company? It could very well be that your boss is ALSO looking for a new job and used that friendship as an excuse because he didn’t want to get caught either.

Approaching your boss to talk about what he or she thought about the information session and the description of the company is a great way to bring up the conversation and get your boss talking about the situation in general terms. Your boss may ask you if you attended the recruiting session because you're unhappy in the job or if you're looking for a new position. Your answer might be that you are interested in learning more about what other companies in your space are doing and that you try to attend as many networking opportunities as possible for professional growth and to build your network. And you could also say that you attended with a friend to keep them company. Or you can admit that your role is less than perfect, and you want to know what else is out there.

While your first response was to wonder if you can get a salary bump out of this run in, your boss might be thinking that you no longer want to work there, and they may not want to invest any more time and energy in you. Did you attend the recruiting event because you aren’t paid well? What is the real answer? What motivated you to look at other opportunities? And are you comfortable having a candid conversation with your boss about your job seeking activity? You need to be clear about what you do want. Until you are clear about what matters to you most in your career and in your job, you won’t know if it is available at your current company or if you need to leave.

Getting what you want at work involves being able to have open conversations with your manager. Knowing if you are held in high regard, or not, is vital. Are you aware of your ability on the job, your impact on colleagues and your value to the organization? Before you start looking for more, asking about your standing can help improve your chances of moving ahead and learning more about other opportunities leadership might see for you at your current organization. If you are valued, you have more leeway to negotiate. If you aren’t held in high regard, you will find these conversations about more money or more responsibility will not get you want you want. So, find out how you can become a more valued colleague. Many people don’t realize that is the issue they need to deal with – who they are at work – and not money or the company’s willingness to make changes. It’s a hard message to hear but the best favor a manager can give you if they can explain why.

If you feel that you are in the right position to talk about compensation being a concern for you, and you're highly valued at your organization, you should consider having that conversation. But don't assume because you're looking for another job that they want to retain you. The reality is that they may be happy you've started looking.

Always be able to ask and answer "Where do I stand? What is my positioning in my current organization? Am I valued and in a position to be retained?” Finding out the answers to those questions will help you either reaffirm your commitment to your employer or cause you to keep looking at other employment opportunities and attending other recruiter events.