I’ve got a friend, Lyle, who is scared in his job right now.

Lyle is 48, working for a large organization, and figures he is only holding on to this job by the skin of his teeth. Lyle spends his days keeping his head down, not offering any opinions, and avoiding trouble of any sort. He’s afraid of every minor mistake, sure that each day will be his last. He even accepted a change in working arrangements that worked against his own interests, just so he could keep his job — a job that he doesn’t even like.

Petrified to submission

Lyle has been petrified into submission, believing himself to be otherwise unemployable, since his original industry has undergone such drastic changes that he could no longer find work in it even if he wanted to. His problem is that he won’t even look for a new job, choosing instead to hide in a metaphorical closet, hoping the Bogeyman doesn’t find him, but knowing he eventually will. And when the Bogeyman shows up, Lyle will be out on his ear, looking for a new job, all the while worrying that he’ll never find another one.

But if Lyle thought about it, this is the perfect time to start looking. He’s employed, which means companies will think he’s employable. He gets to work outside of the organization once in a while, which means he can easily network with other people. And the organization is large enough that if he applies for another position within it, he can easily move. But most importantly, he has the chance to start looking before things are dire, before the Bogeyman shows up and tells him he’s fired, and then starts putting the financial squeeze on him.

photoOf course, Lyle needs to work on branding himself as well, making sure he’s known to potential hiring managers and anyone else who can refer him to a new position. There are four things Lyle — and you — can do right now to search for a new job while he’s in his old one, all without attracting attention to himself or causing any ripples within the organization:

  • It’s okay to start a LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn is so widely used in the business world now, that being on LinkedIn is just like being on Facebook. It doesn’t mean you’re looking for a job, it means you’re looking to make professional connections with people. If you’re worried about what people see on your profile, don’t connect with people from work, and limit the information that people are allowed to see. Don’t use your work email on your LinkedIn profile. For one thing, it makes it more difficult for work people to connect with you, and for another, you want an email address that is always available to you wherever you go (I like Gmail for this purpose).
  • Network with people you meet via LinkedIn, email, and phone calls. It’s important to keep in touch with your professional network in order to do your job, but it’s also a great way to stay top of mind. Phone calls, LinkedIn messages, and emails are all important, and if you’re keeping in touch with people related to your current position, then you’re just doing your job. Share information, like industry news articles and your own blog posts, with your contacts so you become a resource of information. Answer questions people have and show that you’re knowledgeable.
  • Join a professional association in your industry. Hell, join two. This is all being done in the name of professional development, so again it won’t look suspicious, but it will give you a chance to network and meet people who may have a line on a new position. Many associations also post new openings on their website or in their monthly newsletter. Keep close track of these new jobs and apply to the ones that interest you. Also, connect with the people at these companies via LinkedIn, and if there’s a LinkedIn Group for the association, join it, and start connecting with people. If there isn’t, create one and get it running. That will really make you well-known in that field.
  • Create an RSS feed of job postings from the companies you want to work for. A lot of big organizations have job pages on their own sites, rather than relying on the big job boards, which are frankly useless these days. Do this at your home computer, using your home email address (seriously, get a Gmail address), and no one will know that you’re even thinking of looking. Connect with people from those companies on LinkedIn too, and find ways to network with them, both online and offline. Become known to them and work with them on outside projects if at all possible.

The best time to find a new job is while you’re working at the old one. There’s no financial pressure, and you can use your regular job for networking and professional development that could lead to your new one.

But being afraid and hiding in the closet hoping you won’t be found is not a sound strategy. The chances of the Bogeyman finding you are pretty high, and once he does, you’ll still have to do all that networking and professional development. Why wait until then to start? Start your job search now, and get paid to do it.


Erik Deckers is the co-owner and VP of Creative Services for Professional Blog Service in Indianapolis. He has been blogging since 1997, has been a published writer for more than 24 years, and a newspaper humor columnist for 17 years. Erik co-authored Branding Yourself: Using Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (Pearson, 2010) and also helped write Twitter Marketing for Dummies.