Conducting a job hunt while employed can be tricky. Still, it's the best way to find new job opportunities. Employers prefer job seekers who are actively employed because it provides them the confidence that you will be a good hire. When a job seeker is unemployed, it tends to raise red flags and questions as well as put you in a defensive position rather than one of strength and accomplishment.
There also tends to be less pressure on a job seeker when she conducts her search while actively employed. Most people do not have endless streams of income, so it isn’t wise to quit a current job and then start looking for new opportunities. Being employed allows job seekers to be confident during their job hunt, because they're not in a desperate situation. But finding a job while still employed at your current job can out you in a precarious situation. So how do you go about job searching without your boss knowing? Let’s dive in.
1. Use LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is an excellent resource for job seekers, because you can search for job opportunities without even letting your current employer know. By using this link, you can notify recruiters that you’re seeking a new position without announcing it in your profile, where your boss or colleagues may be able to see it.
2. Don’t use your work phone and email address.
Your employer has the right to access your calls and emails, because it’s being done on their property and company time–not to mention that you're probably using company resources, including your work computer. Always use your personal cell phone and email address (Gmail is most recommended) so that you can access your calls and emails anytime without having to worry about who is watching or listening to you. If you’re not a tech guru and aren’t sure how to set these tools up, find someone who can lend you a hand.
3. Ask recruiters and potential employers to be tactful.
If you decide to use a recruiting agency or a headhunter, then be sure that your name isn’t revealed too soon in the process. Also, do not use a professional that you know works for your present employer. It may create a conflict of interest—or at least quite the awkward situation! Inform any potential employers that your present employer doesn’t know that you are job hunting and you would appreciate their discretion.
4. Use personal and/or vacation time for interviews.
Some people make the mistake of using their sick time. By doing this, you’re setting yourself up for failure, because you will have to explain yourself. Also, consider the potential scenarios if you run into someone, such as a client. Who is to say that they won’t blow your cover? Don’t lie. If you truly need to take time from work for an interview, then use your vacation and/or personal time, so that you will not have explain yourself to anyone.
5. Don’t come to work dressed differently than you normally do.
Be mindful of how you’re dressed if you’re headed to work after a job interview. If you normally dress casually at work and decide to wear a dress or a suit and tie to your meeting, it’s sure to catch someone’s attention. Bring a change of clothes, or wear something versatile.
6. Keep it off social media.
This might sound like a no-brainer, but it can be more difficult than you think. Some people have a difficult time not sharing or exciting news on their channels. Some bosses truly do check their employees’ social media postings frequently. If you’re trying to find a new job without anyone at work knowing, then social media isn’t the place for it.
7. Print your resume at home or elsewhere.
I am aware that some people may not have printers at home. I had a client once who didn’t even have a computer at home. But you can buy relatively inexpensive technology. I don’t suggest leaving trails of your search behind you at work, including in the digital sense. If you’re in a tough spot, ask a non-work friend or family member to use theirs, or go to Staples or FedEx for printer access.
8. When you update your LinkedIn profile, turn off the “Notify your network” button.
You do not want to accidentally send out an update to your entire network that you’re looking for a job. While your profile should be updated frequently, adding some key new pieces, such as recommendations, a new summary, or new skills can be giveaways.
9. Get recommendations and references from past supervisors and managers.
I typically also advise job seekers to integrate this with any special projects or volunteer work outside of their current workplace. If someone is contacted and unaware that you’re looking for a new job, it may not go well.
10. Never bad-mouth your present employer.
This is true even if you have the worst boss or a pending lawsuit. It isn’t grounds to badmouth her. Always take the high road and show some class by rising above whatever it is, and focus your energy on your future in the new job you’re going to find, rather than focusing on what’s wrong with your present employer.
11. Don’t post your resume on job boards.
By doing so, you are creating a potentially negative situation with your current employer if you are caught.
12. Stay focused on your current position.
It might be difficult and time-consuming, but don't let your efforts applying for jobs steal your focus from the tasks at hand. It might be tempting to check out, but this is the time when your career requires your best work to preserve your reputation before leaving your current company.
Honesty is always the best policy. If your employer does find out or if you are questioned, don’t lie. Remember, this is your career and you are job hunting for a reason. Eventually, you will find a new position. What will happen when your boss finds out that you lied? Preserve your integrity and tell the truth.