Q. I work for a relatively unknown firm in New York City, and it’s become apparent that, one way or another, my time here is coming to an end. The firm has been very unstable in 2009, and a senior associate tipped me off that I may be the next one to go once the major case I’m working on ends in January.
To be honest, even if I were to survive past January, I want to voluntarily leave early in the new year for a variety of reasons—including the fact that my boss makes The Office’s Michael Scott seem like the world’s best manager. So, as you might imagine, I’ve been sending out resumes to other firms.
I recently had a preliminary conversation with an HR person from an Am Law 100 firm in Philadelphia who now wants to schedule a phone interview. It’s a job that I would take without second thought. But it made me realize that if I progress to the point of an in-person interview, I need to get a day off. Technically, I have the time to take (I’ve taken only one personal day all year and am well ahead of my billing requirements), but when I say my boss sucks, I mean it. He won’t give me the time off if I just ask for a personal day without a reason. I know because I asked for a day off back in July, and he gave me so much shit that I didn’t even bother taking it.
So what should my approach be? With any luck, I’m going to need time off, possibly multiple days. Should I lie and make up a reason? Should I be honest about why I need the day? Should I ask the prospective employer to meet on a Saturday?
A. Stop worrying about pleasing your current bosses, and start worrying about finding a new job. If you plan on leaving the firm no matter what in January, then stop even thinking about pissing off your current employer. Who cares? They’re about to fire you, dude. Don’t you get it?
Unfortunately, you seem to be suffering from “battered lawyer syndrome.” You’ve been so abused and tortured that, even though you’re about to get the ax, you still feel the pathetic need to please your boss—er, abuser. Stop! No more worrying about your old firm. Right now, your only job is to find a new job. Understand?
As for specifics… When you set up an interview, simply tell your boss that you’ll be out of the office that day for personal reasons. Leave it at that. If he presses, say that it’s personal and shoot the bastard a stern look. The subtext here: It’s non-negotiable, and it’s none of your goddamn business. (Whether or not you’re looking for a new job, it’s always important to create appropriate boundaries with your superiors.)
And forget about setting up meetings on Saturdays (unless your prospective employer suggests it first).
Your only obligation to your current firm is to be reasonably professional and responsible, but that doesn’t mean you need to be a hero. What I’m saying is, don’t sit on a filing or purposely avoid an important phone call. But by the same token, don’t worry about impressing your bosses either. That ship has sailed. Doing stellar work is no longer your priority. Finding a new job is.
We’re talking about your life here, my brother. So take charge and do whatever necessary to land your next gig—especially in this job market. If you ruffle some unreasonable partner’s feathers in the process, so be it. Good luck!