For the past few years the prevailing opinion has been “Just be thankful you have a job in an economy like this.” Well, now things are turning and companies are hiring once again. If you’re one of the lucky ones who has held a job though the recession now may be the ideal time to start looking to take that next step in your career. However, searching for that next great job while still working your current job is a bit of a sticky situation.
You wouldn’t announce to your girlfriend that you were just checking out the cute brunette that walked by, and likewise, you probably don’t want to tip-off your current employer that your eyes are wandering around to other job opportunities.
So how do you go about searching for other opportunities, and going on interviews without catching the ire of your current boss?
I don’t care if you’re working 80 hour weeks and have no internet at your house. DO NOT start browsing Indeed, Careerbuilder, Monster and other job posting sites from your work computer. Most, if not all companies these days monitor internet usage on their network to some degree. While they may look the other way when you browse ESPN.com or do some shopping on Amazon every now and then, they’re not going to be so kind if they see you using their resources to find a job somewhere else.
If you have to do it from work use your smartphone to browse the postings, otherwise do it from home, the library or a friend’s house.
Keeping A Low Profile
Another way you don’t want to prematurely advertise your job search to your employer is by opening your big mouth around the office! It’s only natural to want to tell your friends and coworkers, but unless you can absolutely trust them with your confidentiality it’s best to just keep it to yourself until the time is right. Things have a strange way of circulating around an office and the last thing you want is your boss learning of your search through the grapevine. So more often than not it’s best to keep your search to yourself and your very close friends.
The same goes for social media. While you’ll definitely want to update your LinkedIn profile and leverage your connections there, you’ll want to change your settings so your activity doesn’t get broadcast to all your connections. Your boss and coworkers aren’t stupid, you aren’t doing an overhaul of your profile just because you’re bored on a Tuesday night! Re-checking your Facebook privacy settings and protecting your tweets are also good ideas. It’s common knowledge that employers look in these places to see what they can find out about you. You really don’t want some dumb pictures from a Halloween party or an angry tweet when your team blew a big game to come back and haunt you.
It can be kind of tricky when a prospective employer wants you to provide references. Naturally the people who can best vouch for your skills and successes are those you’re currently working with. In this situation I would provide references from previous jobs that I’ve held. If that isn’t a possibility, explain to the prospective employer that you’d be happy to provide them with all the references they’d need, but you’d prefer they not contact anyone at your current employer until an offer is imminent. I’ve had friends in this situation before and they’ve all said that the hiring managers were more than understanding and respectful of the request.
One time where it does pay to let your boss in on the fact you’re searching for a new opportunity is if you’re doing so within your current company. Companies love hiring from within and a good boss will encourage their employees to advance within the company. Your boss can even be your greatest asset when trying to move within departments or roles in your current company. They may have connections they can leverage for you or even a relationship with the hiring manager where any good word they put in will carry a lot of weight for your cause.
If you thought searching and applying for jobs without looking suspicious to your employer was hard, just wait until you start getting calls for interviews!
The best thing to try to do is not schedule interviews during work hours, however a lot of the time that’s not a realistic scenario. In that case the obvious answer is to try to schedule your interviews for the very first thing in the morning, during lunch, or at the end of the day. It’s much easier to come up with a vague excuse why you’ll be coming in an hour late or need to leave an hour early that it is to try and explain why you need to leave for an appointment at 2pm. Just as with contacting your current employer, most hiring managers will be more understanding than you’d think. They’ll usually do their best to accommodate you.
Personally I prefer to schedule all my interviews for the very first thing in the morning. I do this for two reasons:
1. Spending the day dressed for an interview always gets people asking too many questions during the day. I like throwing on a suit first thing in the morning, interviewing and then stopping home to change into my normal work attire before heading into the office. Depending on how you dress for your job this may or may not be a necessary tactic.
2. If I have an interview later in the day I can’t focus on anything but the interview the entire day and I end up getting in my own head and making myself unnecessarily nervous. Again, if you’re a cooler customer than I, this may not be necessary.
Making Your Exit
When you’ve made the decision in your mind that it’s time to leave your current job and head elsewhere it’s very easy to become complacent and start to slack off while at work. Fight the urge! You don’t know if or when that next opportunity is going to come, and you don’t want to start getting a bad reputation with your boss in the meantime.
If despite your best efforts, your boss does find out you’re looking for a new job somewhere else, don’t lie about your search. They’re going to find out eventually, so if you’re blatantly asked about it answer directly, honestly and most importantly…professionally.
When the time comes that you’ve accepted another job offer and have given your employer notice that you’re leaving the most important thing to remember is not to burn any bridges…
You may think it will be liberating to unleash years of frustration on that coworker you couldn’t stand or the supervisor you found oppressive on your way out the door. But it will never feel as good as you want it to, and things like that always have a way of coming back to haunt you down the line.
The business world is a small one after all, and you never know when you might meet these people later in your career, or need to use them as references in the future. So keep your exit cordial and professional.
Readers: What other tips do you have for conducting a job search while employed? What mistakes have you made in this situation in the past?