BLUF: Input sought on a sticky situation that is completely my fault. But it seemed like a good idea at the time :)


Some of you may know that my position at a nature center was cut in some state budget slashing about a year ago, and I moved on to a new job in administration at a university on the east coast.

It's a very nice job (aside from having to wear a suit and sit on my duff all day). The students I work with are whip smart. 


I recently discovered a dream job at a non-profit at the other side of the country. It combines entomology and social media, a great match for my interests and training. It may involve actually going outdoors again. And no suits!

So I applied.  And they are really interested, and want to fly me out for an interview....AFTER they talk to my current boss. Who I didn't initially put as a reference,
BTW, but did put several other previous supervisors.

Also, current boss is scheduled to do my 1 year evaluation next week. 0_o

So....I am trying to figure out several things:

  • Do I really want this dream job, and  a 50% pay cut, at a non-profit in this economy?
  • What if I connect them to my current boss for an interview, potentially burn that bridge, and then discover I don't like the new city or new bosses when I visit for the in person interview?
  • Am I really ready to make a huge career transition like this at age 50?

I don't have any answers, just needed to think "out loud", if you will.

I am fairly certain I can explain to my current boss that this is not personal, but related to something I feel like is a calling. (if you can imagine being called to witness for insects :)

Anyway, words of wisdom welcome.


markbyantaylor's picture

Assuming the magic 8 ball doesn't help ...

My advice would be to level with your boss and ask them to provide the reference.

Reading your post I get the impression that you really, really want to go for this.  If this is your calling then it should come as no great suprise to your boss that you are interested in the role.

If they are a good boss and they know this is what you want to go on to then they will help move heaven and earth to get you that role.  Yes of course they will miss you, but I'd be really suprised if they hold it against you - espeically when this is a move for very specific career path.

Obviously this may all backfire - but I think you'll kick yourself if you let this get away.

On a side note, I am really suprised that they are asking for a reference from the current boss.  Most companies understand that this is a very career crippling activity.  I guess that it is because they are intending to spend so much money on flying you over.

Go for the heart to heart with your boss.  Good luck.

bug_girl's picture

Thanks for the validation Mark! You said more or less what I was thinking--I should try it, and I'll regret it if I don't. (And if only the Magic 8 Ball helped! I actually have a talking one that is a big hit with my students :)

I think they asked to talk to my current boss to check  just how serious I am about this move.   Sort of a "put your cards on the table/call your bluff" move.

I agree that it's motivated by what will almost certainly be a ~$4000 price tag to fly me in and put me up for an in-person interview.   That also made me look at the org's finances very carefully--if they are being this cautious about spending money on what is intended to be a high-level position, just how strapped for cash are they? 

My boss' response was surprisingly mild.  I'm working on our annual report right now, so I have lots of outstanding numbers to report for my first year.  Maybe that helped?

Anyway, thanks for letting me think out loud.  In writing ;p


markbyantaylor's picture

Hope it all goes well.  Let us know how you get on.  Fingers crossed for you.

bug_girl's picture

Well, that went far, far worse than I imagined.

My boss's initial reaction was mild, but then a few days later during my annual review...did not renew my contract.  Boss was fairly open about how angry she was that I was looking at another position.

And, I didn't get a job offer for the dream job, which I strongly suspect was because my current boss poisoned the well. 

So now I'm on the job market with no reference for my last year of work, even though I have amazing results to report--triple digit increases for most metrics, in fact.

I really want to ask the non-profit for feedback, since I am a perfect match, and I really did seem to get along with everyone very well.   They clearly were having a lot of back and forth discussion about the decision, since they initially were going to call me Thursday. And then Friday. And then Tuesday.   

If you were to hear from a rejected candidate, who says clearly "I accept your decision, and want to do better next time, since this really is what I want to do with my life"....would you give them any feedback?  

And now I have to go eat a lot of ice cream.
Flavor: despair.

acao162's picture

I would sit with you for a brief follow-up of what you did wrong, if anything.  Sometimes it comes down to I just liked the other candidate better but I don't have a good enough reason to share.  Other times it's because a collection of answers was not a fit for us.

For someone who is passionate about improving, I'd give you a few minutes and be as honest as I could be.

lunkwill's picture

Ouch! I feel your pain.

Any chance of having an talk with your former boss after her anger has had the chance to cool off for a few days, explaining your situation and maybe repairing the relationship to a degree that you can use her as a reference after all? I know, it's a long shot, but maybe worth a try.

If you do get to talk with the company that turned you down, I would similarly try explaining your situation and asking if they know about any possible openings or leads you might apply for. It's another long shot, but who knows.

Remember, if you had decided to deny the interviewers the contact to your former boss, they would probably have turned you down, and you would now be beating up yourself about *not* having given out the reference.


RDHodgson's picture

 Gah! No! From what I've seen elsewhere on here, Bug_Gurl, you have your head screwed on straight, so you should be bouncing into a good position soon, even if "dream job" status is deferred for a while.

Also, to go with the ice cream, I tend to listen to this song.

bug_girl's picture

Now that I've had some time to process, I'm feeling a lot better.   If my dream employer didn't see that I was the obvious perfect match for them... I probably wasn't really the obvious perfect match.  

Or they had unspoken expectations that I would not have been able to successfully achieve, which would be almost worse than not getting the job.  (Not getting dream job << failing at dream job)

So, onward. Sigh.  Just really tired of looking for a work home.

And I am a huge Ze fan--thanks for the link! :)

falkb's picture

Receiving a double whammy like that will shake everybody initially.

Remember, had you chosen to deny you potential new employer you former boss as a reference, they probably would not have hired you either, and now (and ever after) you would be beating yourself up over that decision.

Any chance to have a talk with your former boss once her anger has cooled off a bit, explain your situation and repair the relationship to the degree that you can use her as a reference after all? It's a long shot, but maybe worth trying.

Likewise, if you do get to talk with the interviewing company, maybe it's worth asking them if they know of any leads or openings that you should be pursuing? Another long shot, but asking can't hurt.

As Mark and Mike say: Stay frosty!


Falk Bruegmann

RDHodgson's picture

 Glad you're starting the bounce back, Bug_girl! Awesome to hear you're a Ze fan!! (I'm so glad the show is back!!!)

I know nothing about your field, and I don't even live in America, so there's literally nothing I can do to actually help you. BUT, I hope I'm able to offer you some moral support at least. :) It sounds bloody stressful and tiring. I trust you can work your way through this.