Thursday, December 29, 2011

How to Search for Another Job Without Your Boss Finding Out


I spent the holidays with family and friends, and the one subject that came up over and over again (apart from the discussion that we were all eating too much) was about jobs. Some people were looking for jobs, and others were complaining about their current positions. When I asked these people whether they were planning to look for new positions this year, I got a lot of "We'll see" or "YES!"

If you're thinking of finding a new job this year, you might want to consider this advice I was given for my recent Gannett/USA Today column....

Previously, the only way your employer might get a hint that you were looking for another job was when you showed up in a nice outfit suitable for interviewing during your lunch hour instead of your usual scruffy khaki pants and T-shirt.

Or, maybe you were careless enough to leave your resume in the office copier.
But these days it's a much different story. Employers may be able to glean that you're looking to jump ship by your frenzied activity updating your LinkedIn profile or through a Twitter or Facebook posting that mentions you hate your job and are trying to leave as quickly as possible.

Savvy employers may even use Foursquare to track your movements and see that you've been visiting competitors or spending a lot of time in FedEx Kinko's, where they might surmise you're making copies of your resume.

The problem is that with the job market so full of talented people seeking jobs, your boss may tolerate your actions less than in years past. He or she may believe that your desire to leave should be hurried along — and just fire you on the spot.

"I think there are a lot of people looking for other jobs these days because they've been working really hard and holding onto jobs for a long time that they don't love," says Hannah Morgan, a career and job-search consultant who writes the Career Sherpa blog. "But I also think you have to be very, very careful if you're going to look for another job when you already have one."

Susan Joyce, editor and publisher of Job-Hunt.org, agrees.

"People are so clueless," she says. "I don't know how many times I've contacted someone and told them that they need to remove the "Job-Hunt.org" (widget) from their list of LinkedIn groups. Groups are something that are Googled relentlessly by employers."

Employers are doing Google searches on their employees and their activities because they are aware of creeping employee disengagement and dissatisfaction. They know such unhappiness can lead to turnover as the job market improves.
A Gallup poll found that more than 1 in 4 workers are unhappy with the tangible rewards from their work such as pay and benefits and also cite a higher level of on-the-job stress.

Human resources departments and bosses often keep an eye on employees' social media chatter and may do keyword searches to turn up resumes from employees posted to job boards of other company job sites. Using job titles, company names and even industry keywords, employers may be able to find you easily through their searches, Joyce and Morgan say.

So how do you fly below the radar when searching for a job? Joyce and Morgan offer some tips:

• Don't attend job fairs or job-search networking events. On the other hand, going to an industry conference can be seen as necessary for your current job but still give you plenty of chances to network with other potential employers, Morgan says.
"Even when attending these events, don't ask someone whether they've got any openings at their company," she says. "Say something like, 'So, what's new and exciting at your company these days?' It's more subtle, but still raises awareness of who you are."
• Never use company time or resources. Don't use company voicemail or email; your employer can check both, and evidence of a search could be immediate grounds for dismissal.
Joyce even suggests buying a throw-away cellphone just for your job hunting so no one else can tap into your messages or accuse you of using company property.
In addition, access your social networks only through your personal computer and account. Joyce says she knows of one instance where a woman had built up more than 500 contacts through LinkedIn but lost them all when she was dismissed from her job and the account was accessible only from her work email.
• Turn off the updates feature. When updating your profile on LinkedIn, for example, turn off the automatic updates feature so your network isn't constantly being pinged that you're suddenly busy on the professional networking site.
If you're connected to anyone in your company, it might be a red flag to them that you're looking for another job, Morgan says.
• Stay mum. Don't tell anyone, including your best buddy at work, that you're searching for a new job.
If asked about it outright, Morgan says you never should openly admit to the search but rather say something like "Aren't we always looking for another job?" and just try to laugh it off. Joyce says to try to be as cagy as possible with your responses and be prepared with a response if your boss asks if you're looking for another job.
"It's smart to have a comeback in case you're asked," she says.

Any other advice for searching for a job without the boss finding out?


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