Intern seeks greener grass

Dear Shelagh

I am a young woman in my first job – which is a paid internship, after which it will be possible for me to get a proper position at the company I’m working at. However, I believe I should keep my ears open for other opportunities, and I have listed my current employer as a reference on my CV. She is very angry that she keeps getting calls from potential employers checking my reference, and tells me that it shows that I’m not committed to my job. So I have two questions. The first is, must I be dishonest with her and pretend that I’m not looking for other opportunities? And the second is, what am I supposed to do about providing a reference if I’ve only ever had this job and I can’t use her?

Honest jobseeker


Dear Honest

Congratulations on finding a paying internship. I’m sure you know that there are thousands of graduates who aren’t as fortunate.

I can’t help wondering why you are looking for other opportunities when you already have an almost guaranteed place where you are. Is there something about the company that’s not working for you? Something about your employer? If so, consider addressing these issues before deciding to move on. If not, and if you are really just looking for greener grass, then perhaps it’s time for a rethink.

Put yourself in your employer’s shoes for a moment. Training and mentoring an intern is a time consuming and costly business. Sure, your employer gets something out of it too, but if she’s already talking about a permanent position, she will almost certainly continue to invest in you. But why should she bother to do this when you’ve let it be known that you’re using her as a stepping stone to greater things?

Why not take advantage of the wonderful opportunity that you have right now? Why not learn all you can, do your work with the utmost integrity and show your employer that she made the right choice in selecting you? If you decide in a year’s time that there are valid reasons for you to move on, then discuss this with her, rather than letting other potential employers be the messengers.

So, to answer your questions: there is no point in being dishonest and denying that you are looking for work elsewhere when she already knows this. If you are determined to leave, then do her the courtesy of letting her know why and ask her permission to use her name as a reference (this is always good practice). If she declines, then you are back to square one and must use your CV and academic testimonials to attract other prospective employers. If you decide that you do want to stay; apologise for putting her in such an awkward position, and commit to earning her respect.

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