Editor’s Note: This blog is a modified excerpt from professional “headhunter” and bestselling job-hunting book author Skip Freeman’s next book in the “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets series of job-hunting books, Career Stalled? Publication is scheduled for late fall.
How do you go about finding a new job when you already have one? Very, very carefully, that’s how! If word that you’re “looking” should leak out at your current employer, you could easily—and very quickly!—find yourself “on the outside looking in,” making it a whole lot harder and much more of a pressing issue to land a new job.
If you are a currently employed man or woman you definitely would be well advised to conduct what I refer to as a “stealth” job search, in order not to jeopardize your current job and/or unnecessarily risk your future career prospects. You must always keep in mind that, if the wrong person learns of your plans, you could quickly be called “on the carpet” to your boss’s office to explain your “indiscretions.”
Who would “leak” such information about you? Actually, just about anyone, and they could do it either quite innocently or with definite malice aforethought. Why? Jealousy. Envy. In an attempt to curry favor with the boss. Really, for any number of reasons. Remember, too, any secret you have is no longer a secret once you tell just one other person!
Am I being paranoid here? No, just reporting on human nature. Am I saying that, if you are “looking,” you should trust no other person, not even your “best friend” at work? Yes, as a matter of fact, that is precisely what I’m saying! Keep the fact that you’re “looking” strictly and without reservation to yourself, period.
Key Considerations for an Effective ‘Stealth’ Job Search
How do you effectively conduct a “stealth” job search? While no system is foolproof, of course, some key considerations for ensuring that your job search remains under the company’s (and your boss’s!) “radar” include the following:
- Make sure that ALL of your job search activities, i.e., making photocopies, “polishing” your résumé, “surfing” the job boards, etc., are conducted on you own time, using your own equipment and on your own premises—not on your current employer’s! Do NOT call in “sick” or fabricate “meetings” outside the office to attend job interviews, etc. If you need time off, take vacation time or “personal” days. If questioned about such authorized time off, merely say that you have to deal with personal matters and leave it at that.
- Never, never, never use your current employer’s telephone number as your contact number. Use your home telephone and/or your cell phone number as the contact number. (That doesn’t mean, however, that you conduct your job search activities on your cell phone while on company time or premises!)
- If you don’t already have a “personal” email address, e.g., email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, etc., then get one! It’s FREE! Never, never, never use your current company email address in your new job search. (Many companies can—and do!—routinely and regularly monitor employee email correspondence and usage.)
- Check the “anonymity level” of any online sites where you will be posting your résumé and/or making application. (LinkedIn can normally be considered a “free fire” zone because most professionals have a presence there and that presence usually is perceived as merely innocent professional “networking” activity—unless, of course, you include something like this in your LinkedIn profile headline: “Open to new opportunities” or “Seeking new opportunities.”)
- If you are reluctant to use your home address on your résumé, then consider using a more general address. For example, if your address is 123 Flower Street, Cleveland, OH, using “Suburban Cleveland, OH” is certainly acceptable during the early stages of the job search.
- Disguise the name and location of your current employer on your résumé by providing a general description and location. State Farm Insurance Companies, headquartered in Bloomington, IL, for example, could become “A major group of personal lines insurance companies headquartered in the Midwest.”
- Network very, very carefully. As a general rule, you should limit your networking activities to those professionals who are outside of your current employer’s sphere of influence. On the other hand, it’s certainly acceptable to approach others, say, at professional meetings or after-hours business get-togethers. Do NOT, however, say something such as, “I hate my current job and will go about anywhere just to get out of there!” Rather, say something along these lines: “While I am certainly doing well at my current position, I am always open to genuine opportunities to take my career to the next level. Do you have any suggestions or know anyone I should be talking to?”
- Under no circumstance appear desperate or negative! Desperate, negative people make most others extremely uncomfortable and makes them want to get away from that person and around more positive people.
- Select your references very, very carefully. Understandably, you won’t be able to provide the names of bosses or professional colleagues at your current employer as references. Instead, consider providing the names of previous bosses and/or professional colleagues. In the (remote) event that a hiring manager with whom you have interviewed for a new job insists on references from your current employer, simply tell him or her that you can indeed provide such references—once a genuine offer is made!
- Watch what you say on or post to your online social sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, et al. While you may be laboring under the impression (false!) that such social sites are “personal,” in fact, many times they are anything but!
You’ve worked long and hard to build and maintain your professional brand, so don’t do anything that could in any way risk “tarnishing” it. If it is “discovered” at your current employer that you are “looking,” you can bet your life that your professional brand there will soon be tarnished, if for no other reason than to get back at you for your “disloyalty.” And, if you should happen to lose your current job for whatever fabricated reason(s) once your “disloyalty” has been discovered, your brand will be even further “tarnished” (rightly or wrongly) when you find yourself joining the ranks of the unemployed looking for a new job.
Best advice: Pursue new career opportunities with a gusto and with enthusiasm, but make sure you keep your plans and job search activities strictly to yourself!
Skip Freeman is the author of “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets: The Rules of the Hiring Game Have Changed . . . Forever! and is the President and Chief Executive Officer of The HTW Group (Hire to Win), an Atlanta, GA, Metropolitan Area Executive Search Firm. Specializing in the placement of sales, engineering, manufacturing and R&D professionals, he has developed powerful techniques that help companies hire the best and help the best get hired.