A reader writes:
I received my BA this May, and after searching, got a job as an Administrative Assistant. I'm really very grateful to have gotten this position as it seems like getting an entry level position right now is a bit of a crapshoot: so many people could perform this job admirably, but they can only hire one.
However, it's a tiny company (I'm one of five full time employees,) and it's in a slightly random industry, one that I was not planning to go in to. I suppose I should have planned better, but I had bills and I was in a bit of a scramble to find work.
The people I work for seem to understand that it's unlikely I'll be at the company forever as there are really no opportunities for advancement, given the size.
My question is this: I recently received an offer for an unpaid internship for a completely separate industry that I'm more interested in. The internship would be in the evenings, but it would require that I leave my job twice a week about 15 minutes early. I would really like to take this internship, because I'm still not sure what career path I want to pursue and I'd like to learn about different options. I thought perhaps I could ask my employers if I could come in a half hour early and leave a 15 minutes early.
(Note: As an admin, part of my job description is to answer phones. This is true, but at this particular office protocol is that I handle the phones from 8:30 to one, and then it defers to another employee. I'm not sure why this is their practice, but that's what I was told. Also, the office is rarely flooded with calls.)
My friends and parents say that I should refrain from telling my employers about the internship. They've mentioned that some companies have policies against employees working second jobs (although I reviewed the employee handbook and it made no mention of such a policy.) They've also mentioned hat my employers might worry this is me setting up to leave them and thus cut me loose before I do.
I commute about an hour to and from work every day - it should be less, but I live in LA, where traffic is attempting to stage a world takeover. Because of that commute, my friends and family are recommending that I tell my employers I want the time change because of traffic issues.
This feels sketchy to me. I don't want to mislead my employers. But it's tempting, because I can't afford to be fired at the moment.
I'm not planning to leave anytime soon - I'm learning some good stuff here, but I would like to learn more about other industries. Should I forgot the internship and just keep working? It's starting to feel like taking this internship would be like cheating or something.
Lying is rarely, if ever, a good idea. Here are some of the things could happen if you lie to your employer and say that you need to leave early because of traffic issues: Someone at your workplace could meet someone at your internship and realize they both work with the same person. A reporter could do a story about the place you're interning with and you could end up in it. The internship could call your current employer for a reference before hiring you, without alerting you that they plan to do so. Your current employer could ask you to stay late one day and you'd have to explain why you couldn't. And so forth.
And then you're not just "the admin who we know will leave us eventually" (which they already know), but rather "the admin who lies." A lot of managers would feel obligated to fire you at that point, even if they understood perfectly well why you wanted to take the internship -- the lying part of this would be the problem.
Plus, there's another consequence: You're going to feel guilty about it. Every day that you leave early to "fight traffic," you're going to feel guilt that your coworkers accommodated your request when you lied to them. (If you wouldn't feel guilty, you have a whole different problem, but I don't get that sense from your letter.)
Talk to your boss and explain the situation. Make it clear that your first priority is your job and if this would cause a problem, you won't do it. Say you don't plan on leaving the company any time soon but that this would be a great educational opportunity for you. Offer to do other things to make up for it (such as coming in early or taking a shorter lunch on the days you leave early). Ask what she thinks.
She'll probably say yes, although be prepared to be okay with it if she says no.
Openness is almost always better. Good luck!