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I am working in an actuarial consulting firm operating in Pakistan. There is an opening with one of our clients that I worked for, and I asked my boss to refer me. He is very kind and supportive, and after discussing my future plans, said he needed to converse with another person at the same level to get his views. After some time, he said they thought it would set a precedent, and seem too easy for others to switch to the client side. Is there any practice internationally to bind a person from not going to clients for a job? Because I would like to approach my boss again about this opportunity.

The first answer

Julie Labrie

President, BlueSky Personnel Solutions, Toronto.

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If your current employment contract does not limit you from approaching one of the company’s clients for a job, then there is technically nothing stopping you from doing so. That is the easy black-and-white answer. In a world with many shades of grey however, there are a few additional points to deliberate.

You are right to gently approach your boss again. With the support of your current employer, no one will question the ethics of your job application to their client. If that client approached you directly and asked you to apply, that would be fine, too. In an alternate scenario, however, if a potential employer heard that you went against your boss’s will to apply for that job, he or she would likely frown upon that, wondering if you might do the same thing to them in the future.

If your boss still says no, and you don’t want to risk things by applying for the job any way, then let this client opportunity pass.

One final thought: when you approach your boss again, have a genuine and transparent conversation with him. Be as open and honest as possible. Share how important this client opportunity is to you personally. Sometimes we underestimate the power of authenticity. If you can help him empathize with your situation, hopefully you can change his mind.

The second answer

Doug Ewen

Certified Human Resources Executive, Midland, Ont.

Managing current employers when looking for a new job can be a delicate exercise.

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Given that the client job is a publicly posted position, you should feel free to apply. There are no legal or ethical issues when pursuing open positions with clients, especially in the absence of a non-complete clause. The ethical (and possibly legal) issues arise if you steal or use proprietary information to gain an advantage for your new employer.

Although the support of your current employer would be desirable, it is not necessary. It is important to realize that nobody is going to look after your career better than you will. You need to be pro-active in planning and pursuing your future. Good managers and good companies will not hold you back.

If you decide to apply for the client opening, I would suggest that you respectfully approach your boss once again and explain your decision. Remind him of how this fits well with your future plans and how you would really appreciate his support. Although he may not refer you, your hope is that he would be supportive if contacted. Good luck!

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