Many job seekers look for their next job when they’re still employed. You are more attractive to other employers when you’re still employed, and your steady paycheck allows you to take your time. So it is better to look for a job when you still have one.
But do so quietly. When you’re gainfully employed, keep any job search activity confidential. If you decide to stay, you don’t want your employer to second-guess your commitment. Even if you think you’re probably leaving, you want to take your time to explore and leave on your own timetable.
Meanwhile, though, you will likely have job interviews to attend and search-related calls to return during the business day. Here are six ways to keep your search confidential:
Stay off the company equipment
Use your personal cell phone for calls. Bring a personal laptop if you want to dash off a cover letter or do some research during lunch. Do not give out your employee phone number or email to your networking contacts. Companies routinely scan employee emails mainly looking for compliance breaches, not job search activity, but don’t do anything on company equipment that you don’t want your employer to see.
Keep quiet on social media
LinkedIn is a great way to network, yes, but don’t connect to everyone in one fell swoop. Depending on your settings, your connections can see whenever you have new activity, like a new connection. If you’re connected to your boss or that observant colleague, they’ll see that you’re now magically connected to all these people at competitors! Don’t vent about your job or share your latest networking coup on Facebook or any other site, even if you only use it for personal updates. You may use it more personally but your professional colleagues are still on there.
Get more control of your schedule
As your job search activity ticks up, it will become increasingly more disruptive to your work. Expect this, and plan for it. Stockpile vacation days so if you have day-long interviews you can take the time off. Take longer lunches gradually so that when you need a longer lunch to interview, your absence won’t seem so out of place. Block out your calendar so that you’re not otherwise booked and can more easily move things around if you have to take time off, take a longer lunch, or otherwise get away.
If your office dresses business casual, you will stick out when you come in with your interview suit. But you need to dress professionally for your job search: Even if you are targeting casually dressed places, it’s still a good idea in most cases to dress up for interviews. You can bring your interview clothes in a separate bag and change at your interview but that may not be feasible. You can keep a jacket in the office that turns your typical business casual wear into more professional attire. Or you can gradually start dressing more professionally all the time, therefore calling less attention to yourself when you do dress up for your interviews.
Manage recruiter interaction
You might be doing all you can to keep your job search confidential but you also have to ensure that everyone who is working with you also keeps this confidence. This means that you instruct recruiters to only contact you on your cell phone or personal email. You should let them know that your search is confidential, and they shouldn’t forward your information to any clients without your consent – you don’t want them to pitch you to their client who also happens to work closely with your current company. Finally, stay on top of your job board activity. Don’t just upload your resume everywhere since you don’t know who might see it, retrieve it, or forward it.
Manage client interaction
In addition to recruiters and job boards, be careful what you say to vendors, consultants, or clients of your company. You may have a genuine relationship with them outside of work but if you ask them for professional leads that will take you out of your company, it might be construed as competing with your company or not acting in the company’s best interest. This may run afoul of company policy. Or the vendor, consultant or client may be loose-lipped and mention that you’re looking to your boss.
Be prepared to get busted
If your boss does get wind that you might be looking—s/he asks about the long lunch or mentions seeing you talking to a competitor—have some ready reasons for your activity. You might be catching up with an old friend. You could be doing research related to your job. You might decide to say that the recruiter or competitor called you, and use this opening to talk to your boss about improving your current role right where you are.