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I currently work as a freelance writer in addition to doing a 9-5 in another field.

An opening as a full-time writer has come up, and I would like to apply. However, to get references I will almost certainly need to ask my existing editors, thus alerting them to the fact I'm applying for a full-time post with one of their competitors.

I'm not sure how to handle this. I am very unlikely to get this full time post (the competition is going to be extremely fierce), and if it's a choice between applying or keeping favour with my existing employers, I'd go with the latter every time.

Because it's going to be a competitive post, I'd like to secure an advantage by getting letters of recommendation from some of my existing clients.

Are my editors likely to take offence if I ask for a recommendation for this full-time post? Is there anything I can do to minimise the chances of causing offence when asking?

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1. Could a Testimonial be sufficient?

It's probably reasonable to ask for testimonials from clients on behalf of your current employer and this might be sufficient especially where testimonials mention you by name. If you have a good relationship with your clients, or have done some work you are especially proud of, you could ask for this specifically.

Your current employer would likely welcome some fresh testimonials from clients so this could be a win-win!

2. 'Fessing Up

Alternatively, you could just come clean with your current employer. Sometimes it can be good to let employers know you are looking elsewhere so they don't take you for granted and so they have the opportunity to address any issues you may have with your current employment. Some employers may admire your ambition.

Of course, there is a risk of offending your current employer with this option, and you should be prepared to leave if you have to.

Sometimes you have to close a door before another one will open.

  • Thanks. But I was more thinking of trying to get recommendations in advance, to get an edge in this very competitive position. The question does not make this clear - will edit. – Bob Tway Jul 13 '14 at 10:49
  • OK Matt. I have rewritten my answer to take into account the new information. :) – Neil Robertson Jul 13 '14 at 13:14
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In the past, I've tried to maintain a passive search for new opportunities. That way, when I find one that I may be interested in, I can inform my current employer/client that, at the moment, I'm just keeping my options open. It sounds like that's basically what you're doing, anyway. You're not definitively leaving.

Many professionals will tell you that you appear more valuable if you already have a job. In other words, the best time to look for a job is when you already have one. You should always be passively pursuing alternative jobs; you never know when you'll lose your current position, or you'll find another job that you like better. Plus, it keeps you from getting rusty, and forces you to maintain your value. If you start to fall behind in your industry, you'll know pretty quickly if you're on the job market.

Any employer worth getting a reference from would agree with that logic.

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