These days it often seems that it’s easier to get fired from a job than ever before. One way to get fired that’s almost certain is if and when your employer finds out that you’re looking for another job. This is usually considered to be an act of disloyalty to employer, subjecting you to instant termination. If you do begin a job search, it’s important that you do so without your employer knowing you’re looking.
Here are some strategies you can use that will help keep your job search secret – at least from your employer.
Never, ever reveal your search to a co-worker
No matter how much you may like or trust a coworker, it’s best that you never disclose that you have launched a job search. This is an easy thing to do, particularly when the water cooler chitchat turns into a grievance session about the boss or the company. You may be tempted to announce that you’re looking for a job as a way of declaring your intent to take action.
You must resist the temptation. Some information is simply too hot to handle, and even a trusted coworker may unwittingly disclose your secret to someone else in the company, who has no serious interest in keeping it quiet. The fewer people at work who know about your job search, the less likely it is a your employer will find out.
When you’re at work pretend you aren’t looking for a job
There are more ways that you can tip your hand about looking for a job than simply telling coworkers. You can often reveal your intent either by certain practices or by your overall behavior.
No matter how anxious or desperate you are to find a new job, keep the following in mind:
Continue to do your best work. Both your boss and your coworkers can often tell that you’re out looking if your performance at work takes a sudden nosedive. They can tell when you are pre-occupied, disinterested, or have even checked out completely. At the extreme, your attitude can be so obvious that you risk getting fired before you’re ready to quit. When you are conducting a job search, it’s important to maintain the appearance of business as usual.
Don’t make job search calls at work. Some employers actually monitor your phone conversations. If they happen to be listening in when you’re discussing interview times with a prospective employer, you’ll be gone before you’re ready. In addition, when you’re on the phone you never know who’s within ear shot. If you need to contact a prospective employer, step outside the building – well outside – and use your cell phone.
Don’t use company equipment for your job search. Your work email is not your private sandbox – your employer legally can and often does monitor it. At the same time, don’t store your resume or cover letters on your office computer. In fact, don’t even use the office copy machines. Inadvertently leaving your resume on the copy machine could lead to an early departure.
Be careful taking time off. Do your best to conduct your job search at night and weekends, and that includes interviewing. If you’re suddenly taking time off, particularly a day here and a half day there, your employer will become suspicious. Unless you reveal that you have a medical condition that needs treatment, they’ll almost automatically suspect that you launched a job search.
Be very selective about where you apply for positions
Job candidates often think that the best way to find a job is by using the “shotgun approach”. That’s where you apply for virtually every job that is available in the hopes of increasing your chances of landing one.
Not only is that technique generally ineffective (unless of course you are unemployed), it also puts news of your job search out to more people. In most industries, a manager at one company knows the manager of another. If you apply at a competing company, and the manager at that company is a golfing buddy of your boss, it may not end happily.
Use stealth networking techniques
Everyone recommends networking as one of the most effective ways to land a new job. But if you already have a job, you have to tread very lightly here. There’s a better than even chance that any professional network you’re on includes people from your current employer.
Moral of the story: your job search should never be obvious on a network.
For the same reason, you shouldn’t be announcing either your job search or your discontent with your current employer on the social media, including Twitter and Facebook. Employers routinely monitor those now.
The better way to use networks to find a job is by getting involved in substantive discussions with potential employers in network settings. This will involve talking about industry problems, solutions, and other topics that have nothing to do with a job search.
Use networking as an opportunity to display your knowledge and abilities, and that will likely attract interest in your job candidacy without tipping off your employer.
Use recruiters – discreetly!
One of the best ways to conduct a private job search is by using a recruiter. But you have to be careful here too. Not only do you have to make it clear to the recruiter that the job search needs to be completely confidential, but you also have to limit the number of recruiters that you work with.
Work with one recruiter who has a good reputation – a professional one. You don’t need to be working with several recruiters at the same time. If you do, they will sense a lack of loyalty from you, and your confidentiality make go right out the window. In addition, similar to applying for a lot of jobs at the same time, working with several recruiters might broadcast your availability to unintended parties – like your employer.
If you intend to leave your current employer, you need to make sure that you’re able to do it on your own terms. The best way to do that is by conducting the search in such a way that your employer won’t know that you’re looking.
James Hendrickson is an internet entrepreneur, blogging junky, hunter and personal finance geek. When he’s not lurking in coffee shops in Portland, Oregon, you’ll find him in the Pacific Northwest’s great outdoors. James has a masters degree in Sociology from the University of Maryland at College Park and a Bachelors degree on Sociology from Earlham College. He loves individual stocks, bonds and precious metals.